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Senators fear Iraq war may spill to Iran, Syria



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Gene map unraveling tricks of trichomoniasis


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The tiny parasite undulates under the microscope like some creature from a sci-fi movie, but this one is all too real, latching onto the sexually unwary with tentacle-like probes.


Now scientists have mapped the genes of the nasty little bug that causes one of the world's most common, and arguably least recognized, sexually transmitted infections, one with the tongue-twisting name of trichomoniasis.


Researchers hope the work will bring new attention to a parasite estimated to infect 170 million people a year worldwide, including 8 million in North America -- and one emerging as a player in the spread of the AIDS virus.


"There are a huge number of people infected out there, but they don't know it so you don't know it," warned Dr. Jane Carlton, a parasite specialist who led the four-year effort by The Institute for Genomic Research to crack the bug's genome.


The work is published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.


Most sexually transmitted infections are caused by viruses or bacteria. A microscopic, single-celled protozoan named Trichomonas vaginalis causes this one.


The good news: "Trich," as it's short-handed, is easily curable, with a drug called Flagyl. The bad news: Many cases go undiagnosed and thus continue spreading trich, plus the parasite is starting to develop resistance to the drug.


Both men and women can be infected, although trich is more common in women. But men usually suffer no symptoms, while about half of women do, reporting such problems as vaginal itching and a fishy-smelling frothy discharge.


During pregnancy, trich can cause premature birth or low-weight babies. It's linked to pelvic inflammatory disease.


But trich's real threat is that it quietly increases women's vulnerability to HIV, by altering the lining of the vagina so that it's easier for the AIDS virus to sneak in. Trich also seems to increase the chances that people who already have HIV spread it, enhancing that virus in different ways.


"It is a bad actor," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the genome work.


The genetic mapping "is a very strong step in the right direction with regard to a parasite we still have not fully appreciated," he added.


The genome -- which turned out to be 10-fold larger than researchers had predicted -- highlights this bug's predatory nature, says Carlton, now at New York University School of Medicine.


First, it shifts from the shape of a pear to flatten and cover as much of the vaginal surface as possible. Then it sends tendrils under that surface to latch on. And then it gobbles up the vagina's good, anti-infective bacteria even as it secretes proteins that can erode holes in cells in the vaginal lining.


"We think it's a very voracious parasite," Carlton said.







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Money 70: The best mutual funds you can buy

Money Magazine's list of recommended funds is not about aiming for the highest short-term returns. Our lineup is designed to let you build a well-balanced portfolio that will help you reach your most important financial goals, like putting your kids through college, starting a business or achieving a comfortable retirement.


Money Makeover


We focus on criteria that have real predictive value: low expenses, a strong record for putting share-holder interests first and a consistent investment strategy.


A fund that meets our standards typically ends up delivering above-average returns - two-thirds of the actively-managed funds on our list posted returns that ranked in the top half of their category in 2006, and nearly 90 percent did so over five years.


Our roster includes a range of actively managed stock and bond portfolios, as well as low-cost index and exchange-traded funds. Or you can put your investments on cruise control with one of our target-date retirement portfolios, which automatically shift their asset mix to become more conservative as you get older.





A Sketchy Blueprint for Iraq



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Britain must stay on military frontline: Blair



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Bush challenges Iraq strategy skeptics



Libby heads to trial in CIA leak case







Parents rejoice after 2 Mo. boys found


BEAUFORT, Mo. - Two boys kidnapped four years apart and found in the same suburban St. Louis apartment smiled shyly but said nothing to media at two hug-filled news conferences Saturday, a day after they were rescued.


The boys' parents clung to them and focused on their joy at the shocking outcome, saying little about the 41-year-old man charged in the case or how the teens were treated.


The boys — 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, abducted more than four years ago, and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, taken after getting off his school bus Monday afternoon — smiled shyly and appeared at ease.


"I still feel like I'm in a dream, only this time it's a good dream, not the nightmare I've had four-and-a-half years," Hornbeck's mother, Pam Akers, said Saturday at an elementary school adorned with balloons and welcome-home signs.


Hornbeck's stepfather, Craig Akers, said he and his wife were in disbelief when they were reunited with the boy.


"There was that split second of shock," he said. "Once I saw the face, I said, 'Oh my God, that's my son.'"


Hornbeck smiled often, his mother's arm draped around him, and seemed at ease. He was much bigger than pictures of the missing 11-year-old, his hair darker and longer.


Hornbeck and Ownby disappeared 4 1/2 years and 40 miles apart, though both were last seen in towns within 60 miles of St. Louis.


A routine search warrant led police to investigate the Kirkwood, Mo., apartment of Michael Devlin, an Imo's Pizza manager and part-time funeral home worker. He was charged with first-degree kidnapping and bail was set at $1 million.


Ownby grinned broadly as his mother recalled that soon after his return home, Ben immediately went to the computer to play video games.


"We're just ecstatic," Doris Ownby said. "Don't want to let him go out of our sight."


Authorities declined to offer further details about Devlin.

FBI Special Agent Roland Corvington said federal charges were possible.


The key to finding the boys was a beat-up white pickup truck spotted by a schoolmate of Ownby's who got off the bus at the same time. The friend saw the pickup speeding away about the time Ownby vanished from the gravel road near his home.


On Thursday night, Kirkwood city police officers saw a white truck matching the description. They traced the owner, contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, then searched Devlin's home Friday and found the boys.


There were no details about what police found inside the apartment or how or why the boys might have been detained. Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks said more charges are likely.


In Kirkwood, one of Devlin's neighbors, Rick Butler, 43, said FBI agents came to his door Thursday night and showed him a picture of Ben.


He said he had not seen the boy but had seen another boy he believes was Hornbeck. He said he saw no evidence that the boy was scared or trying to get away. He even saw Devlin and the teen pitch a tent in the courtyard.


"I didn't see or hear anything odd or unusual from the apartment," Butler said. "I just figured them for father and son."



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U.S. military boosts domestic surveillance: NY Times



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Ecstatic parents of boys found in Missouri hail 'miracle'


ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Two very relieved and beaming families hugged their sons at news conferences Saturday, the day after the two missing boys were found -- one after four days, the other after four years.


Police had been searching for Ben Ownby, 13, who disappeared Monday, when they found him with another teenager in a man's apartment in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. That boy told the officers that he was Shawn Hornbeck, who was last seen riding his bike in 2002, when he was 11.


The man who lived in the apartment, Michael J. Devlin, 41, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of first-degree kidnapping, according to Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks.

He is being held on $1 million bail and may also face federal charges. (Full story)


The rescued boys' families told their stories at separate news conferences, each filled with emotion and overwhelming relief.


Shawn's mother, Pam Akers, and his stepfather, Craig Akers, said they had never given up hope.


"We've got a lot of catching up to do," said a tearful Pam Akers. "He's grown up on me, that's for sure."


"Shawn is a miracle here," she said.


"This is one of those rare, rare things. To have one missing child found is just extraordinary," Craig Akers told reporters. "To have two found at the same time is one of those things -- you don't even read about things like that."


Shawn sat at a table close to his mother, exchanging hugs with her and smiling as he watched his stepfather talk excitedly to reporters. At one point, he put his forehead on the table in mock embarrassment as Craig Akers relayed, to much laughter, that Shawn's first request was a hamburger from McDonald's.


Akers said there's one task the family will need to attend to right away.


"We really don't have any plans as of yet other than to go shopping and buy some clothes," he said. "His old stuff doesn't fit him, obviously.


"However, they were still in his dresser at the house. You can open up the dresser drawer, and there's his clothes just the way he left them four years ago."


At his news conference, Ben appeared at ease and happy as he stood with his sister and his parents, Don and Doris Ownby.


Doris Ownby said she was "just, just ecstatic" to have Ben back. "I didn't say anything, I just grabbed him and held him."


She said the first thing Ben wanted to do was to play a computer game, and the first thing she did that morning was check to see if Ben was still there.


Family wants to spread hope


The Akerses, who have spent the past four years helping in other missing children cases, said they wanted to give hope to those parents. Craig Akers said he remembered the day he heard Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart was found -- on March 12, 2003, nearly a year after being kidnapped.


"I remember how much that raised our hopes, how much fuel that gave us to keep going," he said.


The conference was held in a room decorated with balloons and handmade posters that read "Miracles Do Happen" and "We All Missed You, Shawn."


"I want to give that hope to the families, to the family that their kids can come home," Pam Akers said. "It may be years later, may be days later, may be weeks later, but they can come home safe and just always keep that faith and hope."


The boys were found in Kirkwood, Missouri, about an hour away from the Akers' home in Richwoods.


The break came after reports of a sighting of a rusty white Nissan pickup truck that matched the description of one sought in the disappearance of Ben, last seen getting off his school bus in Franklin County, near St. Louis.


Two police officers in suburban Kirkwood went to the apartment complex to serve an unrelated warrant and spotted the pickup, Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke told reporters Friday.


"That resulted in the recovery," Toelke said.


It is not clear what happened to the boys while they were with Devlin, but Craig Akers said Shawn did not go to school during the four years he's been missing.


"All the questions will come later," said Pam Akers. "We're just trying to absorb that he's home."

'That's my son'


Craig Akers described driving home from work and getting the call that Shawn might have been found. "It took a minute to find a suitable place to pull over," he said.


"The words -- 'We think we found Shawn, we're 95 percent sure that we found Shawn and that he's alive' -- were the sweetest words I ever heard in my life," he said.


Driving to see their son was "the longest drive we ever had to do," he said.


When the parents and Shawn saw each other, there were no words, he said.


"Just a split second of shock," Akers recounted. "The last time we saw him, he was yea tall and 11 years old. It kind of throws you for a second. But ... once we saw the face, we said, "Oh, my God, that's my son...


"That was pretty much where we were the first five minutes. Not a lot of words spoken, except a lot of 'I love you's,' kisses, and 'We're so glad that you're home.' "








Man rides stationary bike for 85 hours


BURR RIDGE, Illinois (AP) -- George Hood may have pedaled his way into the Guinness Book of World Records on Saturday night.


The 49-year-old Aurora resident began riding a stationary bike at the Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge at 4 a.m. Wednesday and surpassed the previous record of 82 hours by 8:28 p.m. Saturday. He stopped several minutes before midnight after completing his goal of 85 hours.


"He's very grateful -- and very tired," said Matt Baron, a spokesman for Five Seasons.


Baron said Hood was talking and thanking his supporters right up to the end, but was taken by paramedics to a hospital as a precaution after he got off the bike.


"He'll be under observation for a while, and they're going to administer fluids," Baron said.


The record of 82 hours was set last year by Brian Overkaer of Denmark.


Getting Hood's accomplishment into the Guinness Book may take several weeks as officials need to certify it, Baron said.


As Hood neared the 82nd hour -- and spun more than 1,000 miles -- he sped up.


The Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor and 23-year federal law enforcement veteran had been averaging 12.7 mph. Coming down the final stretch, he cycled at 13.5 mph.


About 200 people gathered at the club to cheer him on.


Hood hoped the feat would help raise thousands of dollars for the Illinois chapter of COPS, an organization that helps the families of slain police officers. Illinois COPS president Jennifer Morales has said Hood could be the largest single fundraiser the local group has had.


Baron said Hood raised $25,000 for the group -- $5,000 more than his goal.


Hood took a few brief power naps along the way. Guinness Book rules allow a five-minute break for every completed hour of cycling.








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Seven die in collision on icy road


ELK CITY, Oklahoma (AP) -- A minivan carrying 12 people skidded off an icy highway early Sunday and slammed into an oncoming tractor-trailer, killing seven, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.


The eastbound van slid through the center median and struck a westbound tractor-trailer on Interstate 40 around 3:50 a.m., trooper Kera Philippi said. Five of the van's occupants were taken to a hospital, Philippi said.


Their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, a hospital spokesman said.


The identities of the woman and six men who were killed were not immediately released. Philippi said all the van's occupants were adult residents of Mexico, and interpreters were being used to locate next of kin.


All seven victims were thrown or partially thrown from the minivan and apparently were not wearing seat belts, trooper Chris Laufer said. They were pronounced dead at the scene, he said.


At the time of the crash, about 110 miles west of Oklahoma City, freezing rain was falling and visibility was limited, according to the National Weather Service. A powerful winter storm had coated roads and highways with ice and sleet.









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'Human hair' clue in hunt for airliner


BARRU, Indonesia (Reuters) -- Rescuers have found fragments of human hair and scalp that might come from passengers on a missing Indonesian airliner, a rescue official said on Sunday.


The remains will be sent for DNA testing, Muslimin, a rescue official in Makassar, said by telephone.


Pieces of wreckage of the Adam Air Boeing 737-400 that vanished from radar screens on New Year's Day with 102 people aboard have been found in the past few days floating in the sea or washed up on beaches off Sulawesi island.


Officials have suggested the plane might have crashed into the sea off the west coast of Sulawesi, disintegrating into small pieces.


"Some human hair and scalp suspected to be that of the victims of the missing Adam Air plane were found this morning in Dutungan island in the Pare Pare area," Muslimin said.


He did not say how long the DNA testing would take.


Makassar, Sulawesi's largest city and the coordinating point for the search, is about 1,400 km (870 miles) northeast of Jakarta. Pare Pare is a two-hour drive north from Makassar. Both are on Sulawesi's west coast.


A search team found part of one of the plane's wings on Saturday night, Budi Haryoto, an official from the national search and rescue agency said.


He said the 1.5 metres (5 ft) long fragment was still being examined to find out if it was part of the right or left wing.


A fisherman found the tail stabiliser of the Boeing on Tuesday snared in his nets but initially stored it under his traditional stilted house because he thought it was only a slab of plywood. He was given a cash reward of 50 million rupiah ($5,500) on Saturday for finding the first piece of the missing jet.


Part of a passenger seat with a serial number on it was found on Sunday in waters around Pasir Putih island roughly half way between Pare Pare and Makassar, Lieutenant Andi Ichsan, an Indonesian marine involved in the search, told Reuters.


Troops in a rubber boat also found a piece of an emergency exit door off Sakuala island in Pangkep district, he said.


On Saturday, pieces of clothing that might be linked to passengers were also found, according to the Web site of Indonesian TV station SCTV.


Despite the possibility that the Boeing had broken up, Indonesian navy ships assisted by a U.S. oceanographic ship have been trying to locate its fuselage, which could still house the flight recorder that could provide clues to explain the disaster.


Search mission chief First Air Marshal Eddy Suyanto said on Saturday that the search for the plane's main body and black box was being hampered by the depth of the sea in areas where metal objects had been detected in the Makassar Strait.


Strong winds and heavy seas were also making the search more difficult at the weekend.


The flight recorder is set up to give off a signal for 30 days to aid detection, but it is likely to be very hard to locate in waters as deep as 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) in the area.


So far no bodies confirmed as the missing passengers have been found. Suyanto said previously that, considering that parts of the plane found so far were mostly small, a body was unlikely to have survived the disaster in one piece.


The 17-year-old plane was heading from Surabaya in East Java to Manado in northern Sulawesi when it vanished in bad weather on January 1. The plane made no distress call, although the pilot had reported concerns over crosswinds.










Seven dead, including a child, in apartment building fire




























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Using Social Media to Build an Email List


Sally Falkow suggests that social media marketing can be utilized to build a more “traditional” email marketing list.


She outlines some case studies that support the notion and offers the following key tips:


* You have to identify an audience interested in your content on a relevant social media site



You have to offer them interesting and relevant content



Once you become a trusted source of information you’re home free - they convert very well.


The concept certainly has the potential to do wonders for a marketing campaign. Email marketing works well, when the content is from a trusted source - something the recipient expects and looks forward to receiving. Social networks are built on friendship, sharing passions and trust, so are the perfect place to fish for email subscribers. (noticed I said “fish”, and not “phish”)







Social Media Can Build Your Email List


"The money is in the list" still holds true. Email is alive and well and being fed by social media sites.


MediaBuyerPlanner reports that Girls Learn to Ride, a site for young women interested in snowboarding and other extreme sports, uses social media sites to build their email list.


The site currently has 10,000 names in its email database, but has a combined 50,000 friends in social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Sponsorhouse. It sends out daily bulletins to its social networking "friends," encouraging them to sign up for the email list.


The company's largest growth has come from the social networks. Interestingly, emails to the social networks result in the highest conversion rates, as well.


Search Engine Journal also highlighted the recent launch of the Conde Nast brides.com MySpace profile.


Currently they have 2,245 friends. Google Analytics has shown me that bulletins sent out to a MySpace friends list can drive serious traffic and get good return if you’re a trusted source of information.


A couple of key points in this internet marketing strategy:



You have to identify an audience interested in your content on a relevant social media site


You have to offer them interesting and relevant content


Once you become a trusted source of information you're home free - they convert very well.


So even though social media and email are the vehicles, a content strategy is still of paramount importance.







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Turning Problems Into Business Opportunities


Turn a Problem into a Business Opportunity by creative thinking.


People pay money to create a problem and then somebody else turns that problem into a business opportunity. How do we do this? First step is to examine and define in great detail what exactly the problem is? Then look at innovative ways to turn the problem into a business opportunity.


Problem - We are eating a lot more then we should. Opportunity - exercise classes, weight loss diets, larger size clothes & diet drinks / foods.


Think of traffic, then think of bottlenecks! Problem - a lot of people stuck in traffic. Opportunity - Billboard advertising & more demand for entertainment on the move!


Problem - In this day of high speed life, people don't have time to sit down and eat. Opportunity - Create a fast food franchise that serves hot food within minutes for customers to take away and eat on the move.


Problem - people are drinking more. Opportunity - diet drinks, drink dispensers, low calorie alcoholic drinks, vitamins, more fun drinks & definitely more counselling!


In our previous business, we had a problem when we were manufacturing specialised, shock absorbing pallets. We always many pieces of a certain size of wood left. I sent our salesman round local businesses to see if he could find a use for it. In the end we ended up making "button-ups" which had a 100% profit margin after expenses for pieces of wood which we used to throw away!


Problem - Higher number of asylum seekers & refugees. Opportunity - low cost housing, lower paid labour force and increased demand for economy products!


Problem - More spam! Opportunity - more demand for new software, better firewalls & more experts needed!


What problems have you faced recently? Can you nail it down and turn it into an opportunity?


Here are the steps we should take to turn a problem into a business opportunity:


1) Identify the problem


2) Do overall market research


3) Get a team in to collectively debate the problem


5) Sleep on it


6) Do some more market research


6) Apply creative thinking and problem solving strategies to identify a business opportunity


Many questions can be answered by market research. What is the current state? Where is the market going? Who are the main players? How do consumers feel about the current solutions to their problems? How can we meet their needs better?


We can turn every challenge into a business opportunity. Every business process can be improved. Every problem is a business opportunity. Every time you have a bright idea, make sure that you write it down in an ideas notebook. Can you solve last weeks problems in a way which people will pay money?






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What To Avoid When Setting Up An Online Store


Are you planning start your own online store? Avoid these mistakes if you want your online shop to be successful.


1. Poor navigation: Customers should be able to find products easily. Avoid something called 'mystery meat navigation' where customers are forced to guess what certain menu items mean since there are no text to tell them what a particular menu item is all about!


Stick with what works - most common menu layout schemes are to have the menu on the left, and/or at the top. Do not try any gimmicks or strange layouts that are not customary. You are just chasing visitors away if they cannot navigate around your site. This also happens on those websites that are cluttered. The aim should be to enable the customer to reach a product of his interest with the least number of clicks.


Websites should look professional and the look and feel of the site should fit with the particular focus or brand. For example, cute-sey little cats with big eyes would be out of place on a corporate website, but will fit in better with an online store that sells childrens products.


2. Low-key promotion: Many people who run online stores make the mistake of not advertising. They work on the principle of 'build it and they will come' and hope that people will find their website by accident. If you don't advertise, you are not likely to get customers. You don't have to spend much to advertise your website. Properly targeted keyword advertisements with Pay per Click engines such as Overture, Google and Momma; and email newsletters are an inexpensive way of reaching customers.


3. Poor communication: It is imperative to post contact information prominently on your website. People only buy from website that they trust. If you don't put your contact information on your website, you may give customers the impression that there is no way for them to get support and help when they need it. If you don't have an email address displayed (and you shouldn't - you address will get harvested by spammers!) you should have an email contact form. Even better is to have an online support ticket system to deal with customer enquiries formally.


4. Lack of updates: You need to update your website regularly. You need to add new products, remove obsolete or out of stock products, advertise free offers and change prices where and if necessary. There is nothing worse than to come to a website and realise that the prices and products were last updated 2 years ago.


5. Refusal to invest on SEO: Apart from other advertising as discussed above, you ARE going to need to invest in Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. This investment could either be your own time and effort, or by paying a professional Search Engine Optimization company to do it for you. You can easily pay to get visitors to your site through Pay per click engines, but as soon as you stop paying for those the visitors will also dry up. Investment in SEO and Internet Marketing might seem expensive in the short run, but in the long run the visitors that will arrive at your site through these methods are 'organic' visitors and will keep on coming for years - long after your initial funds have been spent. Most of the best targeted search engine traffic come from natural results in the search engines.


6. Absence of return policy: Make sure that you have a friendly return policy, and that it is displayed prominently on the site. This gives the customers the confidence that if they don't like the product they can return it. Honor the return policies! Yes, you will get those people who take a chance by ordering the product, using it and then trying to return it, however, it is worth it in the long run to install confidence in your visitors. Clearly spell out your shipping policy with regards to returns - should the person returning the product pay for the shipping?


7. Overly intrusive registration policy: Don't force your customer to disclose more personal details than necessary. Only capture the minimum that you require. Yes, it would be nice to be able to build up a demographic database that contains information about the dietary requirements of your client's pet gerbil - but you will put clients off by requesting too much personal information. Do consult with a professional with regards to your privacy policy as well. Most sites are now required to have a privacy policy but it can be a minefield if you want to do it yourself.






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Using Wordpress As A CMS


There has been talk about using Wordpress beyond the typical blog set-up, into the realms of a full-fledged content management system or CMS. Yet, most people have no idea how this is even possible.


I have to stress that the default Wordpress software is intended to be a blogging tool, so if you're trying to make it work like a different type of content management tool you'll have to use the correct plugins (enhancements) and have the a clear idea of what you want to achieve.


While the exact step-by-step method is out of the scope of this article, lets explore some of the ways you can use Wordpress, as I have personally done before.


1) Wordpress as An Article Directory


To make Wordpress work as an article directory, you'll need a special plugin, and a source for the articles. MyArticleMarketer.com is the perfect tool for this, as the articles there are usually human-approved. They also encourage free distribution of their articles to other article sites.


After you have set-up the Wordpress plugin, you need to sign-up for http://www.MyArticleMarketer.com 's distribution list. By filling in their form and specifying the categories (or choose all categories), you automatically qualify to receive all old and new articles that are submitted to MyArticleMarketer.com


However, with Wordpress as an article directory, you'll only be able to receive syndicated articles. Authors won't be able to sign-up or create an account directly with you. It's also against MyArticleMarketer.com's terms or service to encourage authors to sign-up directly with you.


2) Wordpress as a Membership Site


You can set-up a free or paid membership site using Wordpress. All it takes is a few simple plugins to get the job done. Once you've installed the plugins, members will need to login to your site in order to view the content. You can also place a login form in your Wordpress theme files to make it easy for users to log in and out of your membership site.


However, the plugins only create a simple membership system, so if you're looking to create different membership levels and more advanced features, you'd probably want to sign-up with a professional membership system like AmemberPro.net and use their available plugins to ingrate with Wordpress.


At the time of writing, AmemberPro.net has available plugins for a reasonable cost and these will be installed by their support team, so you don't have to worry about the technical setbacks.


3) Wordpress as a Classified Ads System


Wordpress can work like any other classifieds website too. Users can sign-up on your site and place classifieds in the form of new blog posts. They can even set expiry dates for their ads and specify listings or "wanted" ads.


However, you will need to create all the necessary categories and even create a sign-up information page to teach your users how to place ads. The upside of using Wordpress as a classifieds site is that you can also use tagging tactics to get traffic from social bookmarking sites and sites like Technorati.com


4) Wordpress as an Audio / Video Training Site


Using the membership plugins mentioned above or AmemberPro.net's Wordpress compatibility plugins, you can create a membership site with Wordpress. Then, all you need to do is to add the "Podpress" plugin which takes care of all audio and video elements on your website.


You will be able to display and stream MP3 audio or FLV video using their built-in players. The Podpress plugin is really robust and also allows you to specify setting on iTunes, so you can make this commercially and available to the entire iPod / iTunes community.


As you can see by now, there's a whole lot of possibilities when it comes to using Wordpress to the extreme.


I've created an entire video training system to help newbies and advanced marketers alike master Wordpress. Yet, every day brings new possibilities to using Wordpress as a complex CMS instead of the modest blogging tool it was designed to be!


Entrepreneurs Unleash Traffic, Links & Sales!


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Burger battle brewing between Texas, Connecticut


NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) -- A burger battle is brewing between a Texas state legislator and the owners of a restaurant who claim the hamburger was invented in New Haven, Connecticut.


With the new session of the Texas legislature now under way, Republican State Rep. Betty Brown has proposed a resolution declaring Athens, Texas, the original home of the hamburger.


Brown, an Athens resident, says that a long-ago resident of the town had a luncheonette in the late 1880s and sold the first burgers there.


Those claims are not sitting well with Ken Lassen Sr., 89, the third-generation owner of New Haven eatery Louis' Lunch, established in 1895. He says his grandfather came up with the first hamburger there.


Lassen said it happened in 1900 when a man rushed into the restaurant asked for something he could eat on the run. Ken Lassen's grandfather grabbed a broiled beef patty and put it between two slices of bread.


Mayor John DeStefano Jr., advocating for his city, backs the Lassens and their claims.


"We are even the birthplace of George Bush who wants people to think he's from Texas," the mayor said. "So yes, the hamburger is as much a New Haven original as President Bush. Get over it, Texas."


















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Officials say Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped at gunpoint

• Man suspected of snatching two boys might be involved in 3rd case

• Police say Michael Devlin might have "monitored" missing girl case

• Detective: Devlin may have wanted to learn police tactics


UNION, Missouri (CNN) -- Authorities are examining similarities between the disappearances of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby and the disappearance in 1991 of 11-year-old Arlin Henderson.


Meanwhile, Missouri authorities said they are looking into the possibility that Michael Devlin, 41, may have also monitored -- or even participated in -- a 2005 search for another missing child in order to learn police investigative techniques in such situations.


Lincoln County detective Chris Bartlett said Devlin was, at the very least, aware of the search for Bianca Noel Piper, 13, who disappeared in March 2005.


"Whether he was a part of it, in it, or in the middle, or just watching from afar, he absolutely knew what was going on," Bartlett said. "I certainly believe Michael Devlin was monitoring our search and the disappearance of Bianca Piper."


Police are examining similarities between Shawn, 15, who was found in Devlin's suburban St. Louis, Missouri, apartment Friday, and the 1991 disappearance of Henderson, then 11, from rural Moscow Mills.


Both Shawn and Henderson were last seen riding bicycles.


Henderson had a crew cut and was wearing a camouflage shirt and pants.


Henderson bore a physical resemblance to Ben, a 13-year-old who was allegedly kidnapped January 8 as he got off the school bus near his home in Union, Missouri.


Ben was found with Shawn in Devlin's apartment.


Ben had been missing for four days; Shawn for more than four years.


Sheriff: Shawn taken at gunpoint


Police said the recovery of Ben and Shawn has breathed new life into the Piper and Henderson investigations, and prompted a few more tips in those cases. Lincoln County Sheriff's Lt. Rick Harrell told CNN Devlin's name is being checked against archived logs and investigation files from both disappearances.


Devlin will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. (9:30 ET) Thursday by videoconference because of security concerns.


Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoon prosecutors announced Devlin has been charged with two counts of kidnapping, which carry a maximum of 15 years each, and armed criminal action, which carries a minimum of three years.


The latter charge stems from an allegation that Devlin kidnapped Shawn at gunpoint, said Washington County Sheriff Kevin Schroeder.


Addressing reporters Wednesday, prosecutor John Rupp said there is no question that Shawn was kidnapped and was not with Devlin voluntarily.


"Shawn was abducted against his will. Period. End of the story," Rupp said.


Devlin's bond has been set at $3 million cash.


Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Devlin will make his court appearance via closed-circuit television from his jail cell two miles away to avoid transporting a suspect in such a high profile case.


Franklin County prosecutor Robert Parks said he and his counterparts in other counties involved in the case are "pooling all of our evidence" to determine what other charges will be brought against Devlin.


Ben's parents said Tuesday their son is recovering from the ordeal, but has not discussed what happened.


"Ben's doing fine," said Doris Ownby.


She and her husband, William, have sought professional counseling for the entire family.


"They said not to push a child that's been through something like that," William Ownby said. "Eventually, they'll come to terms and volunteer that -- or not. That's fine. He hasn't volunteered anything -- yet. But they say it takes time."


Though the boy wanted to return to school Tuesday, his parents said they kept him at home to give him more time to regain a sense of normalcy.


Devlin's attorneys plan to provide their client with civilian clothing for Thursday's court appearance, fearing that the standard orange prison jumpsuit could taint his image.


"We are anticipating a long week of battle to protect his rights and preserve the integrity of the system." attorney Michael Kielty told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday night.


After his arrest last week, many people who knew Devlin said they were shocked that the middle-aged, heavy-set man who grew up in the St. Louis suburbs could be involved in the alleged crimes.


"I hate to be the guy to use the cliche that he seemed like a normal guy, but he really did," said Rob Hart, who said he was a friend of Devlin's.


Devlin confronted


Kirkland police officer Gary Wagster and fellow officer Chris Nelson started questioning Devlin outside his apartment building after they realized his truck matched the description of the suspect's vehicle in Ben's kidnapping.


They said that initially Devlin was happy and respectful to them.


"As the questions began to get more specific, that's when the attitude changed," Wagster said. "It threw a lot of red flags up for us."


The officers know Devlin because they frequented Imo's pizza parlor, where Devlin worked.


After the officers' encounter with Devlin, they said they walked away with an uneasy feeling that things weren't right and alerted agencies involved in the Ownby case.


Officials then discovered the two boys inside Devlin's apartment and made the arrest.


Devlin's landlord described him as an ideal tenant and Mike Prosperi, his boss for 25 years, said his employee never gave him trouble.


"I mean, he was my manager, he counted my money. ... And you just don't do that with somebody that you don't trust," Prosperi said.


But Prosperi said he became suspicious because Devlin had called in sick the day Ben disappeared and the police description of the vehicle involved in Ben's abduction matched Devlin's white truck.


Prosperi said he called police. Police said investigators were getting ready to look into the tip when Wagster and Nelson spotted the truck themselves.








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Hardware Essentials For Windows Vista


Windows Vista works based on the capabilities of the hardware installed. Windows Vista Capable PCs and Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs both are geared for running Windows Vista but the experience varies with the "premium" delivering more advanced user experience.


Even if you are just considering installing Windows Vista in the far or near future when buying a new laptop or PC you must check the hardware configuration so that the computer is in actuality capable of running Windows Vista in all its glory.


According to Microsoft:


* A Windows Capable PC must have: o An 800MZ modern processor.


- System memory of 512 MZ.


- A graphics card that is DirectX 9 capable.


* A Premium Ready PC must have: o 1 GHz with a x86 or x64 bits.


- 1GB memory card.


- 128 MB graphics memory which supports DirectX 9 graphics.


- 40GB hard drive with 15 GB free space.


- DVD rom drive.


- Audio output.


- Internet access capability.


- TV tuner card specific for Windows Vista. o A TPM 1.2 chip or USB 2.0 key.


- Electromagnetic digitizer pen.


To completely experience Windows Vista features a computer must be state of art and have at least a 40GB harddrive and 15GB of free space. Most Pcs in use today have neither the memory or graphic processors that will run Windows Vista without a major overhaul. And according to Robert McLaws a Windows Vista tester, "Windows Aero is a great eye candy feature, but most families should not drop what they've got and get a fast new machine for it,"


Before you rush and spend money on upgrades you must consider what is important to you. In Vista useable features are enhanced security and easy of use. Features like Windows Aero are "wow" but do not add to everyday use unless you area computer connoisseur.




* Don't invest in PCs or laptops with integrated graphics cards. These use up a considerable amount of a PCs memory.


* Desktops can be upgraded while notebooks cannot.


* If your use of a computer is for gaming, editing or watching movies, or CAD then you must invest in a high powered graphics card as ell as additional memory.


* Notebook owners must aim for a 2GB Ram and discrete graphics chip.


Microsoft is dedicated to preparing the world of PC users for Windows Vista and to this end they have set up a "Get Ready Site" at Windowsvista.com which provided in depth information to users about the OS. They also have an application for download on Windows XP PCs that will informer the owner what is required to become "Vista" ready.








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Jury spares life of human smuggler


HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- A truck driver was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, avoiding a death sentence for his role in the United States' deadliest human smuggling attempt in which 19 illegal immigrants died from the heat inside a sweltering tractor-trailer.


A jury deliberated for 5-1/2 days before sentencing Tyrone Williams, 35, himself an immigrant from Jamaica. The jury could have also chosen to sentence him to death or to a lengthy prison term that would have been determined by the judge.


Williams' life sentence comes with no possibility for parole.


In May 2003, his tractor-trailer was packed with more than 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. As temperatures skyrocketed inside the airtight refrigerator truck, the immigrants kicked walls, clawed at insulation, broke out taillights and screamed for help.


Nineteen of the immigrants died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation during the smuggling attempt from South Texas to Houston. Williams abandoned the trailer at a truck stop near Victoria, Texas, about 100 miles southwest of Houston.


Williams was convicted last month on all 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting that he had faced for ferrying the illegal immigrants.


Williams' attorneys argued he never intended for the immigrants to die and did not know they were succumbing to the deadly heat until it was too late. They blamed the deaths on other members of the smuggling ring who overstuffed the trailer.


Williams' family, including his mother and father, begged the jury to spare his life during emotional testimony presented at the retrial's punishment phase.


Prosecutors said Williams earned a death sentence because he intentionally caused the immigrants' deaths by not freeing them when he knew their lives were in danger. They also noted he failed to take life-saving measures, like turning on the trailer's air conditioning, although some survivors testified they thought it had been turned on.


Relatives of the 19 victims also testified, demanding justice and telling jurors their loved ones did not deserve to die the way they did.


Williams, who lived in Schenectady, New York, was the only one of 14 people charged in the case who faced the death penalty.


This was the second time Williams was tried for the smuggling deaths.


In 2005, a jury convicted Williams on 38 transporting counts, but he avoided a death sentence because the jury could not agree on his role in the smuggling attempt. The jury deadlocked on the 20 other counts.


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the verdict, saying the jury failed to specify his role in the crime.



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Snowy Northwest a skier's delight


SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) -- You just can't help it. Ride up the six-person ski lift at Schweitzer Mountain in northern Idaho, and you can't help but shriek the lift's name.




Marlon Brando, eat your heart out.


There's plenty to shriek about in Inland Northwest skiing this season. (And yes, the ski lift is actually named Stella.) The five resorts scattered around Spokane, Washington, are covered in thick blankets of snow and enjoying record business.


There have been some lean years up here in recent times, when the ski season was measured in weeks instead of months. But this year, many of the ski areas opened before Thanksgiving and have been pounded with new snow since. In stark contrast, skiing and other snow-dependent activities in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest have been severely curtailed this winter by lack of snow and warm temperatures.


Schweitzer, located above the lakeside resort community of Sandpoint, is the biggest and most posh of the five hills in the Inland Northwest Ski Association. It has a mountain village with hotels, shops and hundreds of rental condominiums and other amenities.


As of January 10, Schweitzer had reported an astonishing 211 inches of snow this season, more than double last year's total. The 114 inches of snow at the summit January 2 was more than at any ski area in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Utah, Schweitzer officials said.


The result is that Christmas week business broke the resort's existing record by 15 percent.


The five Inland Northwest hills are located midway between Sun Valley, Idaho, and Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia as the crow flies, but they are a world apart in costs and amenities. Sun Valley, one of the country's most exclusive resorts, for example, charges $74 during peak season for a lift ticket.


In contrast, Schweitzer's daily lift ticket price is $52 for adults, and that is the most expensive of the five. Mostly they are day hills, and mostly they are doing well. Here's a roundup:


# Silver Mountain, located a gondola ride above Kellogg, Idaho, has a summit depth of 95 inches this year. Once known as Jackass, this hill is in the midst of an aggressive upgrade that is adding lodging and restaurants at its base and new runs up top. Silver Mountain is reached by what is billed as the world's longest gondola. Skiers turn off Interstate 90 and park in the lot and ride to the top, avoiding treacherous mountain driving.


# Lookout Pass, located off I-90 on the Montana-Idaho border, is the smallest and cheapest. But it just added a new chair and five new runs, and typically has the longest season. It reported 133 inches of snow at the summit this week, and lift tickets are just $28 on weekends.


# 49 Degrees North, located 40 miles north of Spokane, has dramatically expanded its size this year with a new quad lift and 14 new runs. This hill, which offers easy terrain and is family friendly, has a 132-inch summit depth.


# Mount Spokane, located within the borders of Mount Spokane State Park and only 30 miles northeast of Spokane, is a community-owned hill, and thus offers fewer fancy amenities. But its peak can be seen from town, eliminating any guesswork on whether the runs are foggy or not.


Which brings us back to Schweitzer, the most ambitious of the bunch. With plenty of lodging, upscale shops and its own expensive expansion plans, this is the go-to hill for the area's well-to-do. It draws skiers from throughout the Northwest.


The hill is about 90 miles northeast of Spokane. It is located next to a town that has year-round outdoor opportunities because it sits on the shores of 37-mile long Lake Pend Oreille, one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in the West.


Sandpoint routinely shows up on those magazine lists of best small towns, best recreation towns or coolest places in the West. It is filled with art galleries, restaurants, shops and lodging options. Coldwater Creek, the mail-order house, is based here and operates a large retail complex downtown.


From the top of Schweitzer, the lake stretches to the distance like a huge piece of a jigsaw puzzle, flowing into bays and around islands. The mile-long bridge into Sandpoint carves a straight line above the water.


Schweitzer has seven lifts and 82 named runs, and numerous lodges and snack huts. It also offers inner-tubing, dog sledding, snowcat skiing, a movie theater and other amenities.


Stella was constructed in 2000 and is the only high-speed six-pack in Idaho.


"As far as we are aware, it is the only themed chairlift in the world," Schweitzer spokeswoman Lisa Gerber said.


Designed by a former Disney Imagineer, you reach the lift by skiing into a big barn fitted with some Rube Goldberg machinery that purports to be the guts of the machine.


According to the fictional story, Stella was the wife of inventor Phineas J. Schweitzer, and she wanted to ride to the top of the mountain with him and their four children to see the beautiful views. The lift covers 1,550 vertical feet in 5 1/2 minutes.








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Crunch year for planet Earth


LONDON, England (Reuters) -- This will be a crunch year for action on the climate crisis, a leading environmental lobbyist said on Wednesday.


Never have the opportunities been better and the danger from failure greater, Friends of the Earth chief Tony Juniper said in an interview with Reuters.


"There is an urgency that wasn't there before," Juniper said. "The science is there, the economics is there and the politics is there ...If they don't take this opportunity then we really should start to think about the future of life on earth."


The scientists who mind the "Doomsday Clock" moved it forward two minutes on Wednesday to five minutes until midnight, symbolizing the growing risk of the annihilation of civilization, and for the first time said global warming was a threat.


Early next month the International Panel on Climate Change will produce the first of four key reports this year assessing the latest scientific knowledge on global warming.


This will be followed by a report in April on adaptation, one in May on mitigation and a final overview in November.


A European Union-United States summit in April is expected to focus on energy security, and a Group of Eight summit in early June will highlight energy and climate.


Sources close to the diplomatic process say British Prime Minister Tony Blair, seeking a lasting legacy from his decade in power before he stands down mid-year, wants the G-8 summit to agree an outline plan for further climate action.


Most scientists agree temperatures will rise by between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius this century, mainly because of increasing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport, putting millions of lives at risk from flood and famine.


Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said in October that urgent action on global warming was vital, and that delay would multiply the cost 20 times.


The Kyoto Protocol is the only global pact obliging signatories to cut carbon dioxide emissions, but the United States withdrew from it and booming emitters China and India are not signatories. It expires in 2012 and negotiations to find a way forward or a replacement are sluggish.


In early December environment ministers will meet on the Indonesian island of Bali to try to agree on global action to cut carbon emissions.


"There is the possibility of a deal here," said Juniper.


"The industrialized countries could say they are willing to negotiate cuts to follow on from Kyoto, and the developing countries could say they would be willing to enter negotiations some time soon. That could happen at Bali," he added.


U.S. President George W. Bush, who rejected Kyoto, will have left office by 2009 and the mood in the United States has become more favorable to action on climate change.


"The momentum is developing. Everybody keeps talking about a window of opportunity. We haven't seen a convergence like this before. If we don't act now, when will there be a chance like this again?" asked Juniper.





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Suit links MySpace to sex assaults


http://www.NEW YORK (AP) -- Four families have sued News Corp. and its MySpace social-networking site after their underage daughters were sexually abused by adults they met on the site, lawyers for the families said Thursday.


The law firms, Barry & Loewy LLP of Austin, Texas, and Arnold & Itkin LLP of Houston, said families from New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina filed separate suits Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging negligence, recklessness, fraud and negligent misrepresentation by the companies.


"In our view, MySpace waited entirely too long to attempt to institute meaningful security measures that effectively increase the safety of their underage users," said Jason A. Itkin, an Arnold & Itkin lawyer.


MySpace, based in Los Angeles, did not immediately return calls for comment.


Critics including parents, school officials and police have been increasingly warning of online predators at sites like MySpace, where youth-oriented visitors are encouraged to expand their circles of friends using free messaging tools and personal profile pages.


MySpace has responded with added educational efforts and partnerships with law enforcement.


They are also developing a tool that will alert parents of the username, age and location a child lists on personal MySpace page. (Full story)


The company has also placed restrictions on how adults may contact younger users on MySpace, while developing technologies such as one announced Wednesday to let parents see some aspects of their child's online profile, including the stated age. That tool is expected this summer.


The lawyers who filed the latest lawsuits said the plaintiffs include a 15-year-old girl from Texas who was lured to a meeting, drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an adult MySpace user, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Texas after pleading guilty to sexual assault.


The others are a 15-year-old girl from Pennsylvania, a 14-year-old from New York and two South Carolina sisters, ages 14 and 15.


Last June, the mother of a 14-year-old who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old user sued MySpace and News Corp., seeking $30 million in damages. That lawsuit, filed in a Texas state court, claims the 19-year-old lied about being a senior in high school to gain her trust and phone number.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/01/18/myspace.lawsuit.ap/index.html





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Killer indicted in Idaho abductions


BOISE, Idaho - A man convicted in the 2005 slayings of three members of an Idaho family was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court with kidnapping the family's two youngest children and killing one of them.


The indictment against Joseph Edward Duncan III, issued by a federal grand jury in Coeur d'Alene, will allow the government to seek the death penalty, U.S. Attorney Tom Moss said.


The indictment accuses Duncan of kidnapping Dylan Groene, 9, and his sister Shasta, then 8 years old, sexually abusing them both and later killing Dylan in Montana.


Shasta was rescued as she and Duncan ate at a Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, restaurant in July 2005, about seven weeks after the abduction.


News of the indictment came hours after authorities in California said they were planning to charge Duncan with the 1997 kidnapping and murder of a 10-year-old boy whose bound, nude body was buried under a rock pile in the desert.


Duncan is also considered the prime suspect in the slayings of two children near Seattle.


Among the charges against Duncan, 43, in the Idaho case are kidnapping resulting in death, sexual abuse of both children and firearms counts.


The grand jury alleged that Duncan killed Dylan in an "especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner," according to federal prosecutors. "The grand jury also found that the child's killing involved torture and serious physical abuse."


Roger Peven, Duncan's Idaho defense attorney, told The Associated Press late Thursday that the federal case will be resolved before any additional cases are tried in state court. He said his client would plead not guilty Friday.


"This will get the process going," Peven said. "We've been anticipating it for quite some time."


On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Idaho charged Duncan with driving a stolen vehicle across state lines. The charge was considered a placeholder to make sure Duncan was not extradited for crimes in other states before the federal case was completed.


Duncan already pleaded guilty last October to first-degree murder and kidnapping in Idaho state court for the May 16, 2005, hammer slayings of the children's mother, Brenda Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie, and Groene's 13-year-old son, Slade. Duncan was sentenced to life in prison for those kidnapping counts but has not been sentenced on the murder counts.


Duncan stalked the Groene family for several days, then entered the home and bound and fatally bludgeoned the two adults and the teen.


Court documents allege that Duncan kidnapped the two youngest children and took them into the Montana mountains, where he sexually abused them for weeks before killing Dylan. The boy's body was found in a remote campsite.


Shasta was rescued when she and Duncan walked into a restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on July 2, 2005. Duncan has been quoted in court documents as saying he was trying to return the girl to her father.


Steve Groene, father of Shasta and the two slain boys, did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment. He is unable to speak because of surgery last year for throat cancer.


Prosecutors in California said Thursday that they intend to seek the death penalty against Duncan in the 1997 killing of Anthony Martinez, a case they say involved kidnapping, torture and child molestation.








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Parents think kidnapped son was molested


ST. LOUIS - The parents of a kidnapped Missouri boy said Thursday they believe their son was molested during the four years he was missing, and his grandmother claimed his captor had awakened the boy every 45 minutes, apparently as a way to control him.



The comments came the same day the man suspected of snatching 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck in 2002 pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping another boy on Jan. 8.


Michael Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, was accused of taking 13-year-old Ben Ownby just after he got off the school bus in Beaufort. A schoolmate's tip about a white pickup truck helped lead authorities to Devlin's suburban St. Louis apartment and to the dramatic rescue of Ben and Shawn on Jan. 12.


Prosecutors said Devlin, who also is charged with kidnapping Shawn, terrorized the boy with a handgun to get him to cooperate.


The case has prompted authorities to investigate Devlin in cases involving two missing boys and one girl in eastern Missouri dating back to 1988.


During an interview with

Oprah Winfrey on a show that aired Thursday, Shawn's parents said they have not asked their son what happened on the advice of child advocacy experts.


"OK, I'm going to go there and ask you, what do you think happened? Do you think he was sexually abused?" Winfrey asked Shawn's parents, Craig and Pam Akers.


Both nodded and said, "Yes."


While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, Shawn's case has been widely publicized and his name is well-known. Also, the family has maintained a high public profile, conducting several interviews — including the one in which the sexual abuse issue came up.


Shawn's grandmother, Anna Quinn of St. Louis, told the AP Thursday that the boy has not spoken Devlin's name, and that he has said little to relatives about what he went through. But Shawn did tell his family that at times during his captivity, he would be awakened every 45 minutes by his captor.


"Think to yourself when you don't get enough sleep," Quinn said. "He had to do something to get his cooperation."


Shawn, who had dark floppy hair and piercings in his face when he was found, had a cleaner look in a taped interview with Winfrey. He said he always hoped for a reunion with his family.


"If it wasn't for Ben, I might not be here right now," Shawn said. "I'm thankful that he held in there for those few days. I told myself a long time ago I never wanted any kid to go through what I went through."


Shawn said he was not ready to discuss details of his abduction and the subsequent 51 months he spent living with Devlin. Winfrey said the boy told her off-camera that he was "terrified" to contact his parents during the last four years.


Devlin's attorney, Michael Kielty, declined to respond to the claim of sexual abuse, saying he hasn't seen evidence in the case. "The only thing I have is an allegation," he said.


N.G. Berrill, a psychologist and director of the consulting firm New York Forensic and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it makes sense to look into old cases now that a suspect is in custody.


Devlin "may have tried this before and not known how to pull it off," Berrill said.


He said a serial kidnapper tends to be "an isolated, socially awkward individual ... the kind of person people say that seemed OK and people didn't get to know them.


"He looks like an average Joe," Berrill said. "I suspect he has this need to keep kids. He's sort of collecting children."


Lincoln County, Mo., authorities called Devlin the "most viable lead" in the case of Charles Arlin Henderson, who was 11 when he disappeared while riding his bike in 1991 and has never been found.


The boy, known as Arlin, was, like Ben and Shawn, about 100 pounds and from a rural town about an hour from St. Louis.


"We can't discount him in an investigation into any missing child," Lt. Rick Harrell said.








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Swedish bank hit by 'biggest ever' online heist


Swedish bank Nordea has told ZDNet UK that it has been stung for between seven and eight million Swedish krona--up to $1.1 million--in what security company McAfee is describing as the "biggest ever" online bank heist.


Over the last 15 months, Nordea customers have been targeted by e-mails containing a tailor-made Trojan, said the bank.


Nordea believes that 250 customers have been affected by the fraud, after falling victim to phishing e-mails containing the Trojan. According to McAfee, Swedish police believe Russian-organized criminals are behind the attacks. Currently, 121 people are suspected of being involved.


The attack started by a tailor-made Trojan sent in the name of the bank to some of its clients, according to McAfee. The sender encouraged clients to download a "spam fighting" application. Users who downloaded the attached file, called raking.zip or raking.exe, were infected by the Trojan, which some security companies call haxdoor.ki.


Haxdoor typically installs keyloggers to record keystrokes, and hides itself using a rootkit. The payload of the .ki variant of the Trojan was activated when users attempted to log in to the Nordea online banking site. According to the bank, users were redirected to a false home page, where they entered important log-in information, including log-in numbers.


After the users entered the information an error message appeared, informing them that the site was experiencing technical difficulties. Criminals then used the harvested customer details on the real Nordea Web site to take money from customer accounts.


According to McAfee, Swedish police have established that the log-in information was sent to servers in the US, and then to Russia. Police believe the heist to be the work of organized criminals.


Nordea spokesman for Sweden, Boo Ehlin, said that most of the home users affected had not been running antivirus applications on their computers. The bank has borne the brunt of the attacks and has refunded all the affected customers.


Ehlin blamed successful social engineering for the heist, rather than any deficiencies in Nordea's security procedures.


"It is more of an information, rather than a security problem," said Ehlin. "Codes are a very important thing. Our customers have been cheated into giving out the keys to our security, which they gave in good faith."


In an effort to combat fraud, most banks have a policy of monitoring the behavior of people claiming to be their customers, so that unusual transaction behavior can be investigated and halted if fraudulent.


Nordea was aware that some of the attempted transactions were false because of the large sums involved. However, during a period of 15 months a large series of small transactions enabled the criminals to successfully transfer a huge sum overall.


"In some cases we saw the transactions were false, and in some cases we didn't," said Ehlin. "We can't look at every transfer, and it looked like our customers had made the transfer. Most of the cases were small amounts that we thought were ordinary. We lost approximately seven to eight million krona."


Nordea has two million Internet banking customers in Sweden. The police investigation is underway, and the bank is currently reviewing its security procedures.


The Metropolitan Police warned in October last year that thousands of UK users had been affected by a variant of the Haxdoor Trojan.



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New winter storm stalks Southern Plains


EL PASO, Texas - A storm carrying the threat of more snow and ice moved across the Southern Plains on Friday as more than 100,000 homes and businesses remained in the dark from earlier blasts of cold, wet weather.


Winter storm warnings covered much of New Mexico and parts of Texas and Oklahoma, with a half-foot to more than a foot of snow and sleet expected. In Texas, 90 National Guard members were activated.


At a plaza in El Paso, where large crowds usually gather near bus stops and restaurants, only a few people braved the biting wind.


"We prepared, getting all our winter clothes out, but it's difficult because the bus is late," said Alicia Lozano, 62, who wrapped a purple scarf around her head.


In tiny Oaks in northeastern Oklahoma, carpenter and rancher Garland Whorton has been without power for a week. He spent three days using a chain saw to cut a path through the ice to his barn so he could reach his horses and mules.


"When that snow hits, it's going to finish us off," said Whorton, 59.


The latest winter blast has led to reports of at least 74 deaths in nine states in the past week, including 25 in Oklahoma, 14 in Missouri and 12 in Texas. Many of the deaths were caused by car wrecks or carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.


More than 77,000 Missouri homes and businesses remained without power, mainly in the state's southwestern section.


Eastern Oklahoma, including the hard-hit cities of McAlester and Muskogee, still had nearly 60,000 homes in the dark after ice snapped hundreds of power poles and transmission lines.


About 1,000 people remained in shelters set up by the

American Red Cross, and at homeless shelters. Gloves and blankets were already in short supply after the first ice storm.


"We're packed to the gills," said the Rev. Steve Whitaker, executive director of the John 3:16 Mission in Tulsa. "This has been a tough ride for the homeless."


Along with the fatalities in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri, the wave of storms was blamed for eight deaths in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, three in Arkansas, two in North Carolina and one each in Maine and Indiana.






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World's oldest woman dies at 115


MONTREAL, Quebec (AP) -- Julie Winnifred Bertrand, the world's oldest woman at 115, died in her sleep in a Montreal nursing home, according to Canadian media reports Friday.


Bertrand, born September 16, 1891, in the Quebec town of Coaticook, passed away in her sleep early Thursday at the nursing home where she has lived for the last 35 years, her nephew told The Gazette in Montreal.


"She just stopped breathing," said Andre Bertrand, 73. "That's a nice way to go."


Bertrand became the world's oldest woman last month, after the death of Elizabeth Bolden, a Tennessee woman born on August 15, 1890, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.


The designation made her an instant celebrity. Bertrand's niece, Elaine Sauciere, said the fame her aunt acquired late in life was really quite "unbelievable."


"This little woman sold clothes at a department store in Coaticook," said Sauciere, 70.


A British film crew had just requested an interview with Bertrand for a documentary on people who live long lives. The work also features Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, the world's oldest person, who was 26 days older than Bertrand.


Andre Bertrand said his aunt never had a problem saying no -- and did so to dozens of journalists, filmmakers and medical researchers intent on discovering her secret to long life.


"She was tough, feisty and self-sufficient," Bertrand said.


The eldest of six children, Bertrand never married.


She had her suitors, Sauciere said, adding it was difficult to say how close she may have been to Louis St. Laurent, a young lawyer who went on to become prime minister.


"She was friends with his sister and I think she was sweet on him, but how serious it was, I don't know," Sauciere told the Gazette.



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A Grim Milestone: 500 Amputees


The giant transport planes unload their sad cargo at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, the first stop home for the most seriously injured Americans of the Iraq war. Arriving virtually every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights for the past four years, the parade of wounded warriors may be one of the most predictable events in an otherwise unruly conflict.


Last Tuesday marked another grim milestone: the arrival of the 500th amputee. Army officials said the victim, a 24-year-old corporal, lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion on January 12. He was treated at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, before landing at Andrews and being taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


The corporal became the newest resident of Ward 57, the hospital's renowned amputee center that has swelled with casualties since 2003. Limb-loss has occurred twice as often in Iraq as in any conflict of the past century, except for Vietnam, for which there are no good statistics. The 500 major amputations — toes and fingers aren't counted — represent 2.2% of the 22,700 U.S. troops wounded in action. But the number rises to 5% in the category of soldiers whose wounds prevent them returning to duty.


Despite the devastating loss, amputation is actually a blessing for many Ward 57 patients. That's because they wouldn't have survived in past wars without today's body armor to protect vital organs and better-equipped medics to quickly stop hemorrhaging and deliver the wounded to hospitals. The extraordinary rates of survival in this war — 9 of every 10 soldiers wounded make it, compared to 7.5 of 10 in Vietnam — explains the larger number of casualties who survive with severe and lasting disabilities, including loss of limbs.


The roadside bomb that wounded the 500th amputee is the signature weapon of the Iraq war, racking up the kind of body count caused by heavy artillery in past conflicts. Usually hidden in the road and detonated by remote control, these so-called improvised explosive devices release powerful blasts and shrapnel as Humvees pass by, carrying soldiers well-protected in all but their dangling limbs. "What takes the brunt of it are the arms and legs," said John Greenwood, historian of the Army Surgeon General's office.


As the U.S. military has upgraded the armor of its Humvees, the annual number of amputees has decreased since a record high of 156 in 2004. But Iraqi insurgents have responded with bigger bombs that cause greater devastation. Experts say this has contributed to the increase in multiple amputees. Last year, nearly a quarter of the 128 amputees lost more than one limb, compared with about 13% in the first full year of the conflict.


This war will produce the first generation of veterans in bionic arms and legs, a legacy that may seem most pronounced for upper extremity amputees. It is relatively rare to see Americans missing hands or arms; they represent only 5% of civilian amputees in the U.S. But nearly a quarter of those who lost limbs in Iraq have come home in that condition.








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Probe nears close encounter with Jupiter


• New Horizons spacecraft closing in on Jupiter

• Probe will study Jupiter's atmosphere, rings and moons

• Mission objective: Explore dwarf planet Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper Belt

• It's the the fastest spacecraft ever built


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A spacecraft is zooming toward a close encounter with Jupiter to study its tempestuous atmosphere, ring system and four of its moons before dashing off to see distant Pluto in 2015, scientists said on Thursday.


NASA's New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft ever built by humans, is due to reach Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet and fifth from the sun, after a 13-month journey from Earth, flying almost half a billion miles.


Launched on January 19, 2006, it is set to make its closest pass by Jupiter on February 28, flying within 1.4 million miles.


NASA scientists said the main purpose for visiting Jupiter is to exploit the giant gas planet's gravity to slingshot New Horizons at 52,000 miles per hour toward frigid and unexplored dwarf planet Pluto, a journey that will take eight more years.


Doing it this way shaves three years off the trip, said Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, New Horizons' principal investigator.


Since New Horizons was in the neighborhood, the scientists figured it may as well do some sightseeing.


Jupiter has been visited by seven other spacecraft from Earth, including Voyager 1, Galileo and Cassini, but none had equipment as sophisticated as New Horizons' seven science instruments.


Stern said studying Jupiter, its four big moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, its ring system and the magnetic field enables NASA to "work out the kinks" in the craft's systems and instruments so there are no surprises when it gets to Pluto.


"Jupiter is extremely fascinating in its own right, and we'll be making the most of this opportunity to learn a lot about Jupiter itself," added John Spencer of the New Horizons Jupiter Encounter Science Team.


The craft, now 41 million miles from Jupiter, already has taken dozens of images and will make more than 700 observations in all, the scientists said.


New Horizons, a compact, 1,050-pound spacecraft, will look at Jupiter's turbulent and stormy atmosphere, they said.


Spencer said it will examine Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot, the storm about twice the size of the Earth that has been raging for several hundred years.


It also will get the first close-up look at the Little Red Spot, a storm that formed in the last few years when three smaller spots coalesced, the scientists said.


Images already taken as it approaches Jupiter show that turbulence previously observed near the Great Red Spot has dissipated, they said.


Spencer said the craft will look at volcanic activity on Io and features on Europa, where scientists think liquid ocean lurks underneath an icy shell.


Jupiter's small ring system certainly is far less impressive than the massive rings around neighboring Saturn, and they were discovered only in 1979.


"This should be the most detailed investigation of the ring system that's ever been done," Spencer added.


The craft's instruments will allow scientists to understand the ring system's three-dimensional structure, Spencer said.


NASA also plans for the craft to take a first-ever trip down the long "tail" of Jupiter's magnetic field -- a wide stream of charged particles stretching millions of miles into space.


New Horizons is due to spend five months studying Pluto and its three moons after arriving in July 2015. If all goes well, it could study one or more smaller worlds in the Kuiper Belt, the region at the far reaches of the solar system of ancient, rocky and icy bodies.







Idea of 'designer' babies with defective genes stirs ethics questions


CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- The power to create "perfect" designer babies looms over the world of prenatal testing.


But what if doctors started doing the opposite?


Creating made-to-order babies with genetic defects would seem to be an ethical minefield, but to some parents with disabilities -- say, deafness or dwarfism -- it just means making babies like them.


And a recent survey of U.S. clinics that offer embryo screening suggests it's already happening.


Three percent, or four clinics surveyed, said they have provided the costly, complicated procedure to help families create children with a disability.


Some doctors have denounced the practice. Others question whether it's true. Blogs are abuzz with the news, with armchair critics saying the phenomenon, if real, is taking the concept of designer babies way too far.


"Old fear: designer babies. New fear: deformer babies," the online magazine Slate wrote, calling it "the deliberate crippling of children."


But the survey also has led to a debate about the definition of "normal" and inspires a glimpse into deaf and dwarf cultures where many people do not consider themselves disabled.


'Playing God'


Cara Reynolds of Collingswood, New Jersey, who considered embryo screening but now plans to adopt a dwarf baby, is outraged by the criticism.


"You cannot tell me that I cannot have a child who's going to look like me," Reynolds said. "It's just unbelievably presumptuous and they're playing God."


Embryo screening, formally called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, is done with in vitro fertilization, when eggs and sperm are mixed in a lab dish and then implanted into the womb. In PGD, before implantation, a cell from a days-old embryo is removed to allow doctors to examine it for genetic defects.


The entire procedure can cost more than $15,000 per try.


The survey asked 415 clinics to participate, 190 responded and 137 said they have provided embryo screening. The most common reason was to detect and discard embryos with abnormalities involving a missing or extra chromosome, which can result in miscarriage or severe and usually fatal birth defects.


The survey is being published in an upcoming print edition of the medical journal Fertility and Sterility. It appeared in the online edition in September. Clinics were asked many questions about PGD, including whether they'd provided it to families "seeking to select an embryo for the presence of a disability."


"We asked the question because this is an issue that has been raised primarily by bioethicists as something that could happen," said Susannah Baruch of Johns Hopkins University's Genetics and Public Policy Center.


"It's sparking a lot of conversations," she said. "These are difficult issues for everybody."


While it's technologically possible, whether any deaf or dwarf babies have been born as a result of PGD is uncertain. The survey didn't ask. Participating clinics were promised anonymity, and seven major PGD programs contacted by The Associated Press all said they had never been asked to use the procedure for that purpose.


PGD pioneer Dr. Mark Hughes, who runs a Detroit laboratory that does the screening for many fertility programs nationwide, said he hadn't heard of the technology being used to select an abnormal embryo until the survey.


"It's total nonsense," Hughes said. "It couldn't possibly be 3 percent of the clinics" doing PGD for this purpose "because we work with them all."


He said he wouldn't do the procedure if asked.


"To create a child with a disability because a parent wanted such a thing ... where would you draw the line?" Hughes wondered.


University of Minnesota bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn has a provocative response.


"It's an ethically challenging question and certainly it will trouble people, but I think there are good, thoughtful reasons why people who are deaf or ... dwarves could say, 'I want a child like me,"' Kahn said.








Suspects plead not guilty to killing couple on date


• Pair accused of carjacking slain couple plead not guilty

• Federal prosecutors detail suspects' long criminal records

• Christopher Newsom, 23, was shot and burned

• Channon Christian, 21, was raped and left in trash can


KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Two suspects in a case in which a young couple out for a date were carjacked and killed pleaded not guilty in federal court as prosecutors described their long criminal history.


Lemaricus Davidson, 25, and Eric Boyd, 34, were arraigned separately. Davidson was charged with carjacking and firearms charges, and Boyd with being an accessory after the fact to the carjacking.


Family members of victims Channon Christian, a 21-year-old University of Tennessee student, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23, wept as details of the carjacking and killings less than two weeks ago were recounted.


The couple was last seen on a date January 6. Newsom's shot and burned body was found January 7 along some railroad tracks. The body of Christian, who had been raped, was found in a trash can in Davidson's rented house two days later, two blocks away.


Defense attorney Richard Gaines asked that Boyd be released until trial, tentatively set for March 28. Gaines argued that his client is charged only with being an accessory and has cooperated with police.


But Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Stone said Boyd is a flight risk, a threat to the community and has "a criminal history which, in a word, is quite scary."


Stone recalled Boyd's conviction for a string of aggravated robberies in the 1990s and allegations that he may have committed more robberies recently.


Magistrate Bruce Guyton said he would rule later on Boyd's request for bail.


Boyd has been implicated by two other suspects caught in Kentucky -- Davidson's brother, Letalvis Cobbins, 24, and George Thomas, 23. They said Boyd sexually assaulted Christian and was seen walking out of Davidson's house with Newsom at gunpoint, then returning alone.


A federal judge has signed orders to transfer Cobbins and Thomas back to Knoxville. They have been charged with carjacking and firearm counts in connection with a carjacking. Both carry a potential death penalty because a killing was involved.


Davidson also faces three weapons possession counts -- serious charges because he is a felon, released in August from a Tennessee prison after serving five years for carjacking and aggravated robbery. Thomas is charged with being an accessory after the fact.


Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings told the judge the investigation is "ongoing and active" and could lead to new or additional charges. No murder charges have yet been filed.







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Police: Teen charged in classmate's death said 'I did it'


• Student, 16, charged with murdering classmate at school in Boston suburb

• Suspect "has a history of fairly serious psychological diagnoses"

• Argument began in boys' room at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School


FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts (AP) -- A 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death Friday in a hallway at his high school in an affluent Boston suburb, and a classmate was charged with murder after blurting out, "I did it, I did it," authorities said.


Investigators would not comment on a motive for the attack.


John Odgren, 16, pleaded not guilty in the killing of 15-year-old James Alenson and was jailed without bail. He was to be tried as an adult.


Odgren's attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, said Odgren has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and has been taking medications for many years.


"The defendant has a history of fairly serious psychological diagnoses and has also suffered from hyperactivity dysfunction for many years," Shapiro said. "What is clear is John has a serious disability."


The two boys got into a fight in a bathroom, and it spilled out into a hallway at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High in Sudbury, authorities said. Odgren stabbed Alenson twice with a long knife -- once in the abdomen and once in the heart, prosecutor Daniel Bennett said.


"The timing of the stabbing strongly suggests that Mr. Odgren planned this premeditated murder," Bennett said.


Odgren blurted, "I did it" to police moments after the stabbing, and also said: "Is he OK? I don't want him to die," according to authorities.


All 1,600 students at the school about 17 miles west of Boston were sent home.


At the hearing, Odgren's parents silently consoled each other in the front row of the courtroom and stared at their son, who occasionally looked back.


Paul Odgren is a cell research biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. Dorothy Odgren is a nurse, Shapiro said.


No one from Alenson's family attended the arraignment at Framingham District Court.







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9-year-old runaway snuck on two flights


You have to be a pretty sharp (albeit troubled) kid to know how to a) steal cars and B) drive them. Nine-year-old Semaj Booker has done both. Three times, according to his mother. She says he learned how to drive by playing video games. If only the story ended there.


On Sunday, Semaj stole a car from his neighborhood near Tacoma, Washington. (In each instance, the cars had been running while their owners were temporarily out of sight.) The fourth-grader wound up leading police on a high-speed chase. The cops wanted to put Semaj into juvenile detention, but were told he's too young. So they took the boy home.


The next morning, Semaj snuck out of his house and took a bus to the Seattle airport. He went to the Southwest ticket counter and gave a fake name. According to this mother, he told the ticket agent his last name is "Williams." The agent looked in her computer and said, "Frank Williams?" Semaj answered, "Yep," and off he went with the boarding pass with the name "Frank Williams."


He got through security with no issues, because children don't need photo id. Semaj hopped on a plane that stopped briefly in Phoenix before heading on to San Antonio. He tried to get on a third flight for Dallas where the boy still has family, but Southwest figured out something wasn't right and called airport police. (The airline told us it's investigating the incident.)


Semaj is now in a shelter in San Antonio until authorities figure out what to do with him. He's been charged with car theft and eluding police, but prosecutors may drop the case because he's so young.


Obviously, this kid is pretty smart. How else could he pull off something like this? Let's just hope he gets some help and is able to put his mind to good use someday.


As for the real Frank Williams ... there's no word on what happened to when he checked in for his flight. So Mr. Williams, if you or anyone who knows you is reading this, we hope you'll let us know what happened when you went to pick up your ticket.








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Daydreaming is brain's default setting, study finds


• Specific brain regions become active during down time

• Researchers not sure why this activity occurs

• There may be no reason for daydreaming


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Daydreaming seems to be the default setting of the human mind and certain brain regions are devoted to it, U.S. researchers reported Friday.


When people are given a specific task to do, they focus on that task but then other brain regions get busy during down time, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.


"There is this network of regions that always seems to be active when you don't give people something to do," psychologist Malia Mason of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital said in a telephone interview.


When Mason asked people what was happening during this down time, the answer was clear.


"It's daydreaming," she said. "But I find that the vast majority of time, people aren't having fanciful thoughts. People are thinking about what they have to do later today."


Her team has chosen to call it stimulus-independent thought or mind wandering.


Neurologists and psychologists have debated what goes on when people are not specifically thinking about or doing something, and there had been general agreement that the mind does not simply go blank.


Mason's team set up an experiment using the relatively new technology of functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI to see what is going on.


FMRI allows scientists to take real-time images of the brain, showing which areas are active and when. They can do this while talking to the person being imaged, so they can see the effects of an activity as it happens.


Mason's team recruited 19 volunteers and scanned them as they did a variety of tasks. "The verbal working memory task involved remembering and manipulating four four-letter sequences (e.g., 'R H V X')," they wrote.


The volunteers were also imaged when they were sitting there, waiting between tasks.

Wandering and flitting


"In the absence of a task that requires deliberative processing, the mind generally tends to wander, flitting from one thought to the next with fluidity and ease," the researchers wrote.


Now they know what that looks like.


Active regions include the superior frontal gyrus, which is one of the main bumps on the front part of the human brain, the insula, which is on the side of the brain, and parts of the temporal lobe, at the back of the brain.


Mason is not sure why this activity occurs, but believes it underlies some of the basic mind functions that define people -- although her team has not imaged any animals.


One possibility, her team said, is that the brain always does something so that it is in an active state when quick thoughts or reactions are needed.


"A second possibility is that as a kind of spontaneous mental time travel (stimulus-independent thought) lends a sense of coherence to one's past, present, and future experiences," the researchers wrote.


"We are not stuck in the here and now. We can be stuck in our car in traffic and we are not (mentally) stuck there," Mason added.


Or there could be no reason at all for daydreaming.


"Although the thoughts the mind produces when wandering are at times useful, such instances do not prove that the mind wanders because these thoughts are adaptive; on the contrary the mind may wander simply because it can," they concluded.








'12-year-old' is 29-year-old sex offender


• Ex-convict tried to enroll in Arizona charter school, police say

• Man also cons sex partners into believing he's underage, police say

• Four charged with fraud, forgery, identity theft, failure to register


PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- A charter school alerted authorities to a 29-year-old sex offender who tried to enroll there, pretending he was just 12, in what sheriff's officials said Friday may have been an attempt to lure children into sexual abuse.


The Yavapai County sheriff's office also said Neil Havens Rodreick II conned two men he was living with and having sex with into believing he was a young boy.


One of them, 61-year-old Lonnie Stiffler, called himself Rodreick's grandfather when he tried to enroll him at Mingus Springs Charter School as "Casey Price."


"This is the weirdest case I've seen in 18 years," sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Quayle said. "If it wasn't so sad it would be funny."


A total of four men were in custody in the case Friday on various charges, including fraud, forgery, identity theft and failure to register as a sex offender.


Officials at the charter school in Chino Valley, about 90 miles northwest of Phoenix, told deputies that papers the "grandfather" presented appeared to be fake and that the "boy" looked much older than 12.


Stiffler and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said.


Detectives have evidence that Stiffler and Snow enrolled Rodreick in other Arizona schools, and have notified law enforcement in those jurisdictions, Quayle said.


It was unclear whether Rodreick had actually attended any schools, but Quayle said, "I think what we're looking at is that he's being used to troll for other kids."


She said detectives learned in interviews with the men that Rodreick convinced Stiffler and Snow that he was a boy after they met him two years ago over the Internet. Rodreick apparently shaved his body hair and used makeup to keep up the guise.


Deputies who served a search warrant at a Chino Valley home Thursday found Stiffler, Snow, Rodreick and Brian J. Nellis, 34. Quayle said Nellis was apparently Rodreick's cell mate in an Oklahoma prison, where both served time for sex offenses.


They were jailed on $50,000 bond, except Stiffler, who has no bail set. It was not immediately clear Friday whether the men had attorneys.








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Shawn willing to testify if necessary, parents say


• Parents say of Missouri kidnapping victim Shawn Hornbeck: "He'll do it"

• Mom hopes suspect will "do the right thing" so boys won't have to take stand

Michael J. Devlin pleads not guilty to felony kidnapping, faces more charges

• Shawn, 15, Ben Ownby, 13, found January 12 in man's apartment


NEW YORK (CNN) -- The parents of a 15-year-old boy who was found last week in the apartment of his alleged abductor said they expect him to testify in court if necessary.


Their son, Shawn Hornbeck, was 11 when he was kidnapped in 2002 while riding his bike near his rural home in Missouri. He and another boy, Ben Ownby, 13, were found in the St. Louis-area apartment January 12. Ben had been missing for four days.


Shawn's parents, Pam and Craig Akers, in an interview broadcast Friday told CNN's "American Morning" they're hesitant to put their son on the stand, but Shawn is willing to testify.


"He'll do it," they said. "Shawn will do it." But Pam Akers also pleaded with the man accused in the case, Michael J. Devlin, 41, to do what's necessary to keep the boys from having to testify.


"One thing I would like to say to him is if he has any decency in his body he would do the right thing and not make these boys go through that again," she said.


The Akerses told Oprah Winfrey in an interview broadcast Thursday that they believe Devlin sexually assaulted their son, but on Friday they said they haven't yet asked Shawn to reveal details about his abduction. The parents said they plan to ask him "when the time is right."


When asked if they thought their son had been sexually abused, Pam Akers said, "I don't want everybody to think that he had this perfect life with this guy. There's no way he had a perfect life with this guy."


Devlin was arraigned Thursday on a felony kidnapping charge in Ben's abduction. Devlin pleaded not guilty.


He also faces charges in a neighboring county of kidnapping and using a deadly weapon in Shawn's abduction. That arraignment date has not yet been set.


He has not been charged with sexual assault. The investigation is ongoing.


At a news conference after the arraignment, Franklin County prosecutor Robert Parks said Devlin confessed to kidnapping Ben.


Ben Ownby was abducted January 8. The two boys were discovered four days later in Devlin's Kirkwood, Missouri, apartment after officers questioning Devlin about his truck -- which matched the description of a vehicle seen on Ben's street when he was abducted -- became suspicious about his demeanor.


Devlin's two jobs often took him away from the modest two-bedroom apartment they shared.


'He kept the faith'


Craig Akers said his reaction was tears when Shawn described watching his parents on television pleading for help with their search.


Pam Akers said it was painful to know "that he had to see us that way. That he wasn't able to just come home to us. But he said that did help him keep going and help him survive cause he knew one day that we was going to find him and bring him home. He kept the faith just like we did."


"We would have kept going until the end of our lives," she said. "We would have never stopped looking for him."


Mysterious Web postings


A series of Web postings, some under the name "Shawn Devlin," have raised questions about whether Shawn was trying to send clues about his real identity.


At 1:59 a.m. on December 1, 2005, a "Shawn Devlin" asked in a forum on the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation Web site: "How long are you planing (sic) to look for your son?" Shawn's parents formed the foundation to help find their son and other missing youngsters.


Later that same day, at 2:56 p.m., "Shawn Devlin" wrote to ask if he could compose a poem for the family. The poem never appeared in future postings.


Other Web profiles also appeared to be of Shawn, including the profile on mindviz.com, which described "Shawn" as a single atheist with a pet cat living in Kirkwood.


Craig Akers said the Web postings did not throw up a "red flag" that his son might be reaching out for help.


"I remember reading it," he said. "[i thought it was] somebody else yanking my chain again. We get postings on a message board almost on a daily basis that we would delete as soon as we saw them."











U.S. sub commander relieved of duty after drownings


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The commander of a U.S. nuclear submarine has been relieved of duty after two of his sailors drowned, the Navy said Friday.


On December 29, rough seas swept four American sailors from the deck of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul off the coast of southwestern England. Two of the sailors were rescued.


The other two, Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Higgins of Paducah, Kentucky, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Holtz of Lakewood, Ohio, died.


The four men were taken to a hospital in Plymouth, where two were pronounced dead.


A Navy investigation determined that the incident was avoidable and caused in part by a poor decision by Cmdr. Edwin Ruff.


The Navy said Ruff has been reassigned to a post in Norfolk, Virginia. The decision was made by Vice Adm. Chuck Munns, commander of the Navy's Submarine Force in Norfolk.


"Munns took this action due to a loss of confidence in Ruff's ability to command," a Navy statement said.


Earlier this week, Ruff and another officer on the submarine received letters of reprimand. The Navy did not provide further details on the findings of its investigation.


The Minneapolis-St. Paul, assigned to the 6th Fleet, had just completed a weeklong layover in Plymouth, England, about 210 miles southwest of London.


Based in Norfolk, the sub was heading to sea for routine duties when the accident happened.



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Ron Artest was booed and jeered.


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Ron Artest was booed and jeered.


That sure beat his last game at The Palace of Auburn Hills, when he was hit by a thrown cup to spark one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history more than two years ago.


Richard Hamilton scored 19 points and Tayshaun Prince added 17 to lead the Detroit Pistons over Artest and the Sacramento Kings, 91-74 Saturday night.


Artest had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists before sitting out most of the fourth quarter of the lopsided game that Sacramento never led.


The Pistons have won two straight, both with Chris Webber in the starting lineup, after losing eight of 11. Webber had 11 points and 10 rebounds.



Corliss Williamson scored 17 points and Mike Bibby had 11 for the Kings, who have lost eight of nine.


To prevent a repeat of the ugly events on Nov. 19, 2004, a few arena security guards were near Sacramento's bench in addition to the usual sight of a police officer, arena and team security.


Other than the boos almost every time Artest had the ball, fans teased him about his CD, Mohawk haircut and the black supportive sleeves that covered much of his left leg.


All in all, the tame night was much different than Artest's previous visit.


The brawl started after Artest fouled Detroit's Ben Wallace with 45.9 seconds left in a game that the Pacers were leading by 15. Wallace responded with a two-handed shove to Artest's chin, leading to several players pushing and Artest lying on the scorer's table.


Just when the confrontation appeared to be over, Artest was hit with a cup filled with an icy drink. The volatile player bolted into the stands in a rage, followed by fist-swinging teammate Stephen Jackson.


Artest and teammate Jermaine O'Neal later slugged fans on the court. When the Pacers finally were able to get off the court, they were pelted with beer, popcorn and other debris.


Two days later, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season -- 73 games, plus the playoffs -- in a move that cost him almost $5 million.


Artest was sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault charges. Artest returned to the Detroit area last summer for community service.


John Green, the man accused of throwing the cup, was sentenced in May to 30 days in jail on an assault and battery charge.


Pistons reserve Antonio McDyess had 12 points, scoring in double figures for the third time in four games.


Detroit enjoyed a blowout after being pushed to overtime in two of the previous three games -- winning at Minnesota and losing to the Timberwolves -- and dropping the other game to Utah by a point.


The Pistons started strong, scoring the first seven points and going on a 13-2 run late in the first quarter that set up a 22-12 lead in what was the lowest-scoring quarter against them this season.


Ten consecutive points put Detroit ahead 41-19 midway through the second quarter and it led 48-34 at halftime.


Carlos Delfino made a 3-pointer in the final second of the third quarter to put the Pistons ahead 75-49.




Sacramento beat Detroit 99-86 on Nov. 8 at home. ... Detroit C Nazr Mohammed, who the Pistons are trying to trade, entered the game in the fourth quarter after not playing the previous two games. ... Bibby had two assists, giving him 4,000 for his career. ... The Kings ended their four-game road trip 1-3.









4 kids, mother seized by gunman in Ind.


ELKHART, Ind. - A gunman shot a man and held his ex-girlfriend and their four young children hostage for about nine hours Saturday before forcing them into a car and fleeing, police said.


Elkhart police issued an Amber Alert and said the children and their 31-year-old mother, Kimberly N. Walker, were in extreme danger. The children range in age from 16 months to 9 years old, authorities said.


Police were looking for Jerry D. White, 30, and believed he might be headed to Chicago after the shooting in the northern Indiana city. Detective Sgt. Bill Wargo of the Elkhart Police Department said an arrest warrant with charges of attempted murder and several counts of confinement had been issued for White.


Police said White had apparently been harassing Walker over the last few days, and her sister and her sister's boyfriend had decided to stay with her and the children.


About 2 a.m., White broke into Walker's house and shot her sister's boyfriend, Wargo said. Police said he held everyone hostage until about 11:30 a.m., when he fled and Walker's sister was able to call police.


The boyfriend was in critical condition with life-threatening injuries, police said.






Republican Sen. Brownback enters presidential race



Bush getting 2nd chance to defend plan



7 Up-and-coming destinations

Top international markets for second-home buyers from Tom Kelly, author of "Cashing in on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent And Profit from Real Estate South of the Border."



Top 10 for job growth



Brown: Party politics played role in Katrina response



Democrats: Buying Mideast oil gives cash to dictators



POW Jessica Lynch names newborn for fallen comrade



Psychic told parents that son was dead



Boy tries to reconnect with old life after 4 years



Officers had 'rapport' with alleged abductor



'Croc Hunter' toy line debuts despite death



Judge orders O.J. Simpson: Quit spending so much



JFK contemporary George Smathers dies at 93



13 killed in U.S. copter crash in Iraq, 5 in militia attack



Deadly winter blast blows through Plains



Airline pilot is stricken after takeoff, dies



Report: Shawn told police in 2003 about stolen bike



Arizona Classic Car Auctions

American cars, especially classic muscle cars, continue to be hot items at the Barrett-Jackson's annual car auction in Scottsdale, Ariz



Can red wine help you live forever?

Turns out there's something to it. Fortune's David Stipp recounts the amazing, real story of the scientist and startup that have a shot at making it happen.



The Democrats' New Western Stars



Hillary's Run: The Obstacles She Faces














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McCain casts doubt on Gen. Casey as U.S. Army head



N.M. governor enters White House race



L.A. vows gang crackdown after kids die



Chavez to U.S.: 'Go to hell, gringos!'



Jay Smooth Breaks Down DJ Drama/Don Cannon Arrest Brilliantly On Vlog




Ethan Brown Blogs From Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff Trial

Ethan Brown, the author who penned "Queens Reigns Supreme," about the life and times of notorious drug kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, is writing a blog from the Brooklyn courtroom where Supreme is on trial for murder and a host of other charges.




Don't Go Home With Guys You Meet on MySpace



Google to spend over 1/2 a billion for Datacenter in North Carolina



Controversial Google library project grows



Wikipedia Nofollows External Links



The Department of Justice Subpoenas Banks Regarding Online Gambling Transactions



Blogger Claims that Google could save the world '3,000 Megawatts a Year' by using black instead of white



Conference Sites Expand the Audience



Google Allows Competing Contextual Ads on Same Page as AdSense



Pilgrim’s Picks - Friday’s Internet Marketing News Links



Branding Your Customers



Next TechCrunch Event



Hi5 Traffic Surges, May Be Second Largest Social Network



Google Blacklist Contained Confidential Information



booBox To Help Bloggers Sell Stuff




The Ad Generator



Track Web Site Analytics with RSS Feeds




links for 2007-01-21




The solar house that Mike built




At Sundance, even artwork needs a power cord



Filmmakers at Sundance look to indie video game industry



At Sundance, a blend of art and tech



Five worst cell phones of Q4



Earthquake demolishes homes in 2 Turkish villages



Trademark not 'a good thing' in Martha's new home town



Miami bound

Bears rout Saints in second half to reach Super Bowl



Zeus makes a comeback in Greece



Bundchen: Families, not fashion to blame for anorexia



AIDS group to sue Pfizer over Viagra ads

Foundation wants No. 1 drugmaker barred from marketing Viagra as lifestyle drug to enhance sex life.




Police silent on spy killer's ID




Snow, wind dump on Colorado




Gas prices fall nearly 14 cents in 2 weeks




Kidnap suspect tells paper of a 'happy' four years




CNN Hummer brings $1.25 million for charity







Smith makes obscene gesture to fans


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Atlanta forward Josh Smith made obscene gestures to the crowd as he left for the locker room following his second-quarter ejection Saturday night in the Hawks' game against Charlotte.


Smith raised both middle fingers to the crowd as he was about halfway through the tunnel, apparently reacting to being heckled by fans.


Smith was not in the locker room after the game, won by Charlotte 104-85, but coach Mike Woodson said he talked to Smith after the game.


"I didn't see it," Woodson said. "I was told that, but I'll have to look at the tape ... like the NBA will do. And I'm sure they'll act accordingly if he did that."


Smith, upset at being called for an offensive foul, was given a technical foul late in the second quarter. He continued arguing and was quickly given a second technical and an ejection.


Before making the obscene gestures, Smith kicked a pile of towels and jerseys behind the bench, sending them in several different directions.


"He just can't put himself in that position, to the point that he loses his cool," Woodson said.


Smith is the second Atlanta professional athlete to make an obscene gesture to fans in two months.


In November, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick also raised both middle fingers to Atlanta fans who heckled him as he left the field after a 31-13 loss to New Orleans. Vick apologized, paid a $10,000 fine and donated another $10,000 to charity.


Smith, who came into the game averaging 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, finished with two points and four rebounds on 1-of-4 shooting.


Smith went straight from high school to the NBA and was taken by the Hawks with the 17th pick in the 2004 draft.


"There obviously will be consequences for something like that," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said. "I'm sure he'll apologize for what he's done. In the heat of battle your emotions come out sometimes. That's what happens."











At Baghdad's Ground Zero



Hot spots, cold spots

What will happen to the value of your home next year? We asked Moody's Economy.com and Fiserv Lending Solutions to crunch the numbers for the top 100 markets in the United States.



Patriots last chance for market bears

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Idea of 'designer' babies with defective genes stirs ethics questions



'Barney Miller' actor Ron Carey dead at 71



Report: Teen admits killing Turkish journalist



Deadly winter blast blows through Plains



Defense shuffles Bears into Super Bowl



Bush expected to warn on energy security



















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Chavez tells Washington to "go to hell"



Chavez to U.S. officials: 'Go to hell'



Pfizer to lay off 10,000 to cut costs



Earth's Moon Destined to Disintegrate



Iran bars 38 U.N. IAEA inspectors



Forget Second Life. Get a First Life.



Four Month Old Wize Gets $4 Million



Farecast’s Price Guarantee on Flights Goes Live



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links for 2007-01-22



Strike the Phrase "Social Media" from the Lexicon



$24,000 mouse comes with warranty



MIT-led study finds geothermal energy potential untapped






LCDs for corporate demands



Intel reclaims spot in Sun servers



All your game ads are belong to Google



Online to Win Car Ad Battle



Wikipedia Links No Longer Passing PageRank



The Godfather of Search? What About the Godmother?



Google Releases Confidential User Information



XML Code Comments: What, Why And How



Flex/ColdFusion Mystery And A Very Simple Answer



Sugar CRM - Roadmap To Commercial Open Source Technology



FlashVars In Flex



Google Reveals Confidential User Information?



Overcoming Blog Writer's Block



Has Wikipedia Gone No Follow?



I Should Have Said BrainBoost



Getting The Social Media Release All Wrong



Google Plots On E-Books And Games



Online Retailers And Transactional Email



Japan Reconsiders Copyright Law For Search



It's Okay To Be Anonymous Again (For Now)



Lotus Makes The Collaboration Play



Online Video And The Consumer



Hypebot: EMI Restructuring, XM/Sirius Can't Merge, Payola Outcome, Canadian/International Sales, ReverbNation & SNOCAP, Apple, Koopa's DIY Digital Success



Ethan Brown Blogs From Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff Trial



CaffeineMarketing.com FOR SALE!



Hip Hop Album Releases for Jan. 19/23: Grand Hustle, Cyssero, Deviants of Reality, Gangsta Pat, Romeo, Stones Throw



New Computer Interfaces



Ask.com Subleases Space at 555 12th Street



Iran bars 38 IAEA nuclear inspectors



U.S. image around world sharply worsens: BBC poll



Bush speech to showcase domestic agenda



Republican opposition to Iraq plan grows



'Grammar Girl' a quick and dirty success



Strategists: Clinton must settle 'Billary' issue



Al Qaeda deputy to U.S.: If we are killed, you will be killed



CNN Hummer brings $1.25 million for charity








Johnson may not go to Miami

Bears DT's legal woes could interfere with Super Bowl


There's one Chicago Bear who still doesn't know whether he'll be in Miami for Super Bowl XLI, and he won't know until Tuesday morning.


At half past nine in Courtroom 108 of the 2d District Municipal Courthouse in Skokie, Ill., defensive tackle Tank Johnson and his attorneys will ask Circuit Judge John J. Moran, Jr., for permission to leave the State of Illinois. Without Moran's permission, Johnson won't be going anywhere.


The early indications from Moran are not promising for Johnson, who is charged with violating probation as the result of a police raid on his home and the seizure of six guns and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.


When Johnson first appeared in court to respond to the charge of violating probation, Judge Moran set a bond of $100,000, a clear indication that Moran was not happy with Johnson's behavior. Prosecutors and defense lawyers who practice in Chicago's criminal courts agree that the $100,000 bond is highly unusual. The typical bond for a probation violation charge would be $1,000 or even no bond at all.


"The bond is astounding," one veteran defense lawyer told SI.com. "It means that Johnson is in real trouble with this judge."


Johnson was in the 13th month of an 18-month term of probation when a Gurnee police SWAT team raided his house, finding the guns and arresting his friend, Willie Posey, who was caught in Johnson's basement with a wholesale quantity of marijuana. Posey was murdered two days later moments after he and Johnson arrived in a Chicago nightclub that was a notorious gang hangout.


In addition to the guns and hanging out with a convicted felon, Moran will undoubtedly notice that the current charge is Johnson's second allegation of violating his probation. In March of 2006, Johnson was charged with violations of the conditions of his probation because he had failed to pay a fine, had failed to complete community service, and had failed to do drug and alcohol tests. Johnson managed to settle those charges.


It adds up to a difficult situation for Johnson. "Jack Moran is a tough character," observed a defense lawyer has handled many cases before Moran and insisted on anonymity because he currently has other cases before Moran. "He will do what the case and the situation demand regardless of what it may do to the Chicago Bears and their defensive line. Johnson may not make it to Miami."


Moran has been a judge since 1991 and previously served as a prosecutor in Cook County from for six years. He serves as an adjunct professor at DePaul University.


Johnson's predicament is critical to the Bears. Tommie Harris, the Bears best defensive tackle is out with an injury. Without Johnson, the Bears would be playing for a championship without their two top defensive tackles.






Son who dismembered mother gets six months in jail





Second Life: It's not a game

Fortune's David Kirkpatrick reports on why IBM's Sam Palmisano and other tech leaders think Second Life could be a gold mine.





Justice: FBI could have handled Foley e-mails better



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Oil company promises scholarships to hometown graduates



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India space capsule returns to Earth



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Web of cyber lies leads to murder, police say



Arizona Classic Car Auctions

American cars, especially classic muscle cars, continue to be hot items at Barrett-Jackson's and RM Auctions' annual Arizona events.




Goal: 12 years, $2.5 million

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The Taliban: Friend to Education?



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TI earnings and sales beat estimates

Texas Instruments, the leading maker of chips for cell phones, reports better than expected results for the fourth quarter.




What's next for the Gap?

With Pressler out, analysts would love to see ex-CEO Mickey Drexler -- but here are some (far) more likely candidates. And a buyout? Not likely right now, says Fortune's Jennifer Reingold.



































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Diver says he was partly swallowed by shark


SYDNEY, Jan 23 (Reuters Life!) - An Australian abalone diver told rescuers he was partly swallowed head-first by a Great White Shark on Tuesday but managed to fight his way free, suffering a broken nose and bite marks around the chest.


Diver Eric Nerhus, 41, was underwater with his 25-year-old son and other divers off Cape Howe, near Eden on Australia's southeast coast, when the 3 meter (10 foot) shark attacked.


Rescuers earlier mistakenly reported his age as 25.


"He stated that he was head-first into the shark," a spokeswoman for Snowy Hydro SouthCare rescue service told Reuters after airlifting the diver to hospital.


"When he came to us he was conscious and alert but had a broken nose and lacerations to both sides of his torso and chest -- bite marks all the way around," the spokeswoman said.


Nerhus told fellow divers he didn't see the shark coming as the water was so dirty that visibility was severely limited.


"It was black. He didn't see it coming, but he felt the bite and then started getting shaken, and that's when he knew he was in the mouth of the shark," said local diver Michael Mashado.


The shark bit Nerhus around the head first, crushing his face mask and breaking his nose, fellow diver and friend Dennis Luobikis told Reuters.




"He was actually bitten by the head...the shark swallowed his head," said Luobikis, adding a second bite by the shark saw it clench its jaw around Nerhus' torso.


"The brunt of the bite was taken by his lead-weight vest. Its all over your torso. Eric said to me at the wharf that his weight vest saved him," he said.


Abalone divers spend sometimes 6 to 8 hours underwater and use lead weight vests, not lead belts, to stay down. The vests spread the lead weight across the body, minimising back strain.


Nerhus fought frantically to free himself from the shark's jaws and was eventually pulled back aboard his boat by his son.


"He pushed his abalone chisel into its head while it was biting and it let him go and swam away," said Luobikis.


Luobikis said it was a miracle his friend had lived.


"Eric is a tough boy, he's super fit. But I would say that would test anyone's resolve, being a fish lunch," he said.


Attacks by Great White Sharks are usually fatal because of the massive size of the predators, which breed in Australia's cold southern waters, and the sheer force of their bites.


Sharks, including Great Whites, are protected in Australia.


Australia has had a number of shark attacks in the past year.


In December, a surfer off the southern coast survived an attack with minor injuries, while a 15-year-old boy swimming off a remote southwest beach had his leg bitten.


Last January, a scuba diver off the Western Australian city of Perth survived an attack by a Great White after fighting it off with his speargun and then his hands.


A 21-year-old woman died last January after she was attacked by three sharks while swimming off an island on Australia's northeast coast. She lost both forearms and suffered wounds to the legs and torso.


The U.S. state of Florida annually records by far the most shark attacks.


Between 1990 and 2005 there were 341 shark attacks off Florida, according to the U.S.-based International Shark Attack File, www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm.


Over the same period, Australia reported 74 attacks, South Africa 72, Brazil 62 and Hawaii 57.



Antidepressants may raise bone risk


CHICAGO - The most popular pills for depression might substantially raise the risk for bone breaks in older people, a drawback that should be considered when the drugs are prescribed, Canadian researchers say.


People aged 50 and older who took antidepressants, including Zoloft, Prozac and other top-sellers, faced double the risk of broken bones during five years of follow-up, compared with those who didn't use the drugs, the study found.


Still, few of 5,008 people studied used the drugs and had fractures. While more rigorous research is needed to prove the link, the study provides the strongest evidence yet tying these drugs to fracture risks, said Dr. David Goltzman, an endocrinologist at McGill University in Montreal and one of the study authors. The study was part of ongoing osteoporosis research funded partly by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and makers of osteoporosis drugs.


Antidepressants have been linked with low blood pressure and dizziness leading to falls, which can increase risks for broken bones, but the researchers said they found fracture risks independent of those factors.


Research in animals suggests that the pills might have a direct effect on bone cells, decreasing bone strength and size, Goltzman and colleagues said.


The results have important public health implications since millions of people worldwide use the drugs and because osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that can lead to broken bones, can be so debilitating for older adults, Goltzman said.


Still, the researchers said potential fracture risks should be balanced against the drugs' effectiveness at treating depression, which also can be debilitating.


Depression affects about 10 percent of U.S. adults, or nearly 30 million people, including about 7 million aged 65 and older. Depression in older adults is often missed and untreated.


"If patients need these drugs, they should not be advised against taking them because of the fracture risk. They should however be warned about the risks," Goltzman said.


The study appears in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.


Some previous studies found similar results but did not adequately consider other factors, the researchers said.


Dr. Gregory Asnis, director of an anxiety and depression clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said depression itself has been linked with low bone density, and it's possible the disease rather than the drugs could explain the findings. He said more rigorous research is needed.


The drugs in question are called SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are generally the favored treatment for depression in many patients and their combined U.S. sales jumped 32 percent from 2000 to 2004, to more than $10.9 billion, the researchers said.


The study tracked 5,008 Canadians aged 50 and older for five years. They included 137 people who reported using SSRI antidepressants daily. In this smaller group, 18 people or 13.5 percent had bone fractures during the follow-up, compared with 317 people with fractures or 6.5 percent among the 4,871 who didn't take the pills.


Broken forearms, ankles, feet, hips and ribs were the most common fractures.


Amy Sousa, a spokeswoman for Prozac maker Eli Lilly and Co., said the drug's label lists osteoporosis as a potential but rare side effect. Still, she said the new study was too small to establish any proof that SSRIs might cause fractures.


Pfizer Inc., maker of Zoloft, issued a statement responding to the study and calling depression "a serious problem in the elderly that is under-diagnosed and under-treated."


"SSRIs are an important option for the treatment of depression in this population. As the authors note, the risks must be balanced against the benefits gained by the treatment of depression," Pfizer said.




On the Net:


Archives: http://www.archinternmed.com






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Windows Vista Team Blog

Multiple announcements today



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Vista: Why Most of Us Should (and Will) Wait


There is nothing I have read about Vista yet that makes me want to run out and upgrade our current computers with Microsoft's long-awaited new operating system. And I'm sure I'm not alone.


Why? Because like many consumers, I'm not in the immediate market for a new computer, and even though my Dell Inspiron laptop is just about a year old, all signs point to waiting. As Chris Null advises in this post, if your computer is more than a year old, it's recommended you buy a new computer with Vista preinstalled. And if you're still sure you want to upgrade your existing computer, even if it has all the Vista requirements, wait. You know there will be kinks and flaws that Microsoft will need to work through. It's no fun being a guinea pig, especially one that ends up spending hours installing a huge operating system onto a computer, which is not something many of us do, ever.


Even if you've got the recommended up-to-date processor (minimum: 800MHz 32-bit [x86] or 64-bit [x64] CPU), 1GB of RAM, and 15GB of free space on your hard drive, the common wisdom seems to be upgrading to Vista from Windows XP will not be smooth going. Stephen Wildstrom writes in BusinessWeek, "Based on the troubles I've had in tests, I'd warn against upgrading if you have old accessories, such as printers, or if you run any custom or obscure business software."


Just as many businesses won't upgrade to Vista until they buy new hardware, home computer users probably should do the same. Wait. For the kinks to be worked out, then, when you're in the market, buy a computer with Vista preloaded.


The New York Times' David Pogue points to a SoftChoice survey that says only 6 percent of existing corporate PCs have enough power to run Vista. At home, you'll also need a powerful graphics card in addition to the other requirements. "Moving to Vista means hunting for updated drivers for your printer, audio card and so on, not to mention troubleshooting incompatible programs," Pogue writes.


I don't have time for that.


Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal also says the full benefits of Vista, including its new look and interface (called "Aero) can be experienced only on "a hefty, new computer." He writes in his review, "The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won't be able to use all of Vista's features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly."


That's plenty of expert advice for me. I'm waiting until we upgrade to a new computer. What about you?








Vista: Buy a PC Preinstalled or Upgrade Yourself?


Brian Tom writes: I'm looking to purchase a new PC in the near future. Should I wait for Vista to come out and purchase with it already installed or purchase now and upgrade. What are the pros and cons to each option? Will PCs cost more with Vista already loaded? Any advice would be helpful.


Let me put it simply: If you want a machine with Vista on it, you're absolutely crazy if you purchase a computer now and try to upgrade it later. There's simply no reason to do it yourself.


First off, I don't see much (if any) difference in pricing among machines preloaded with either operating system. The price vendors like Dell and HP pay to Microsoft for licenses of Vista is likely about the same as they pay for XP, so consumers should not expect a huge run-up in cost as vendors are forced to upgrade their offerings.


But most vendors are offering free (or cheap) upgrade coupons for Vista for any machines you purchase now. So does it make sense to jump for one of these deals? I'd advise against it: Installing any Windows OS can present you with problems if you're a novice, and with a brand new operating system like Vista, the problems will be even bigger. Some expect that Vista's hunger for specs will make for a more copious wealth of upgrade headaches than ever before, and I tend to agree. Even if Dell sends you a disc designed specifically for your machine, with all the drivers intact, I am dead certain that a portion of users are going to find it buggy.


Let's say you're a tech pro and you are comfortable doing the upgrade yourself. Still, I wouldn't recommend it if for no other reason than I can think of a better way to spend the hour-plus it will take to run the upgrade. Let the people who sold you the PC do the upgrade for you.


This advice only applies to people intending to purchase a new PC in the near future. If you want to upgrade your existing PC with Vista make sure it can handle it: If it's more than a year old, you're advised to purchase a new computer with Vista preinstalled, and I'd recommend you wait as long as possible to upgrade if you're still sold on doing it yourself. The only people who may want to upgrade sooner are gamers. Vista will be the only way to get DirectX 10, which will power some of 2007's most coveted PC games, including Crysis. If you absolutely must play this game immediately and don't want to buy new hardware, well, Vista will be on store shelves on January 30. Good luck!








Getting Ready for MS Vista


If you're thinking of upgrading your current machine to Vista, the first thing you're going to want to do is check out your current machine to see if it's up to speed. The basic requirements call for a recent CPU, a gigabyte of RAM, and 15 gigabytes of free space on your hard drive. You're also going to want a fast graphics processor, especially if you're going to use the 3D graphics interface, Aero. But there are countless other ways that your system might not be ready for the demands of Vista.


The easiest way to find out if you've got the stuff you need to upgrade is to use the free, downloadable Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft's web site. When it works correctly, the Advisor goes through all of your system components, telling you what will work and what you'll have trouble with. Of course, I found out that the Advisor is not without its share of problems.


To begin with, it's equal parts sales opportunity and download advisor. As you're waiting for the software to do its scan you get lots of info-ads about Vista in all its different flavors, and you're comparison shopping before you've even done the scan. It's also a big program—a 6MB download.


I ran the Windows Upgrade Advisor on a fairly recent Dell Inspiron. It generated a list of about 15 things that needed my attention. They were broken out into three categories: system, devices, and programs.


Some of the things it pointed out were minor, like the fact that I needed updated drivers for the notebook's touchpad. Others were more critical, like the fact that I didn't have enough free disk space to do a Vista install. The scan was not happy with my VGA adapter either, which is sort of a tough one to fix since it's a notebook PC. And about half of the things it pointed out were things it reported as not having any information about in its database. Just as I was viewing the report (there's no print function), the Advisor crashed, taking my IE with it, and I had to reboot my PC. Not a great confidence builder.


I tried the Advisor on a second machine, a Dell Latitude. This time I was informed that I first needed to install a new 1.5MB version of the XML parser. The report generated told me that this machine would work best with Windows Vista Business (of course, I wanted the Home Premium). The reason it recommends the business version is because I'm running XP Professional now, and it turns out that certain upgrade paths are not available to every machine depending on the old version of Windows you're running. ExtremeTech has a nice chart showing you which upgrade paths will work and which ones won't.


In addition to recommending Windows Vista Business Edition, the report indicated that while my CPU and hard disk were fine, the Advisor had no information about the compatibility of my graphics system (Intel 82852) or my Sigma Tel Audio, to name a few. It found five programs that needed minor updates, including MS Explorer and Java. The advice was to head to Windows Update and start getting my devices and programs more up to date.


So far, I can't say I'm enamored with the Windows Upgrade Advisor. Both machines need some work to get them in shape for the big day, and I'm more and more serious about just buying a new Vista machine and starting life fresh on January 30th.







Upgrade from Windows XP to Vista




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Blogging Lessons Learned


We've been blogging here at Online Marketing Blog for just over three years, learning ins and outs along the way.


Here are a few of the lessons learned in that time:


* Blogging has been the single most effective marketing initiative for our search marketing agency second only to providing top service to clients who then refer us to other companies. In fact our top sources of new business are:


1. Referrals


2. Blog


3. Articles


4. Web site


5. Conferences



* Blogs can serve as a very effective platform for connecting online social networks and offline interactions.



* One of the most effective ways at getting into the media is to become the media in your industry via a blog.



* Finding your "blog voice" is important. People will visit and interact with your blog based on whether your regular communication patterns resonate with them or not. If you're all over the board, you'll hold some people for a while, but not long.



* A rushed blog post that is not well thought out can quickly cause the wrong kind of attention or misinterpretation.



* As your blog grows in popularity (RSS subscribers and visitors via links and search engines) the more you have to lose or gain with the quality of your posts.



* The whole transparency thing is great in theory, but is only as effective as your ability and willingness to articulate.



* Don't do it all on your own. Invite guest bloggers and include other bloggers from your company.



* Don't blog when you're mad, really tired and especially not if you've been out on the town.



* Blogs can be excellent conduits to connections and friendships with people that you may never meet in person.



* Blogging is forever. Once you hit publish, it's out there. There's no taking it back.



* The feedback loop to blogging can get addicting and like other addictions, can have serious side effects. Consuming a large part of your productive and free time without a corresponding return on effort is one of those side effects. These effects can be abated by having a clear blogging strategy and following blogging guidelines.



* Blogs can be exceptional tools to boost visibility on search engines as well as social media channels.



* Poorly configured, badly optimized and infrequently updated blogs are nothing more than spam magnets.



* It's just as important, and maybe more, to link out from your blog as it is to get incoming links.



* Widgets and plugins can be very effective if not necessary enhancements to default blog configurations that will assist in building community, making administration easier and for blog optimization.



* Online Marketing Blog has been a very effective tool for building credibility and opening doors to connections with search engines and people in the search marketing industry that would otherwise might not have happened.


If you've been blogging for a while, what lessons have you learned?










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The Dark Side Of Interactive Marketing Isn't So Dark


Privacy advocates are busy stirring the pot over the allegedly illicit invasiveness of behaviorally targeted ads, but a close examination of available data reveals that their hand-wringing is little more than hot air.


They sound the alarm bells that behavioral networks collect personal data, manipulate consumers at the neurological level, and don't provide consumers with an easy way to opt out. One must greet these claims with a healthy dose of skepticism if behavioral targeting is to avoid the fate of adware.


The claim that behavioral networks aggregate personal data is misleading. It would be more accurate to claim that the networks collect impersonal data. A behavioral network keeps track of a computer's web surfing history in order to serve ads that are tuned to the surfer's interest. In the case of behavioral search retargeting, the network keeps track of searches that users have entered, also to serve more relevant ads. The vast majority of the time, these searches are not traceable to any personally identifiable information (the exception being when a person enters himself or herself or other highly specific personal data such as SS# credit card or drivers license number into a search engine).


Are consumers particularly worried about this data collection? Let's ask them. In October, a Harris Interactive study found that 78 percent of users would be happy to receive targeted ads, and sixty-four percent of those would be happy to give up a little personal information. In a study conducted in April of last year by the Ponemon Institute, sixty-three percent of those surveyed said that Internet marketers should "always" understand their interests, and eighty-six percent claimed that they would rather see relevant ads than pay for content. Indeed, the success of programs like The New York Times Online and Hotmail are proof that consumers don't mind giving up a little personal data in order to receive content for free.


One privacy advocate has gone so far as to claim that "advertisers are now working to harness the power of our emotions through research on 'neuroscience' and 'pathophsyiology.'" The claim that advertisers are trying to surpass consumers' conscious decision making process is flat out deceitful. It seems to this frog that if advertisers could tap into consumers' neurons, conversion rates would be close to 100%. It wouldn't be advertising anymore; it'd be more like hypnosis. In reality, most advertisers are ecstatic with a five percent conversion rate or perhaps 30% of market share among their competition.


That suggests that no matter how targeted the advertisement is, most people are loath to respond to advertising unless they're interested in the product or service anyway and have already done research on it. If advertising stimulates curiosity and influences research among viewers that alone is great. What most advertisers actually do is analyze click, traffic, and conversion patterns, and test different attention-grabbing strategies to determine the most effective message. That's not subliminal, it's effective communication on a conscious level.


Contrary to some opinions, most advertisers are not mad scientists plotting to pull the wool over consumers' eyes while they plot their world domination. Rather, most of them believe that consumers ought to have control over what data is collected and how it is used. They believe this not only from an ethical perspective, but also from a self-interested perspective. Most advertisers wouldn't want to waste valuable clicks and impressions on an audience that doesn't want to receive their message and is thus unlikely to convert.


Unfortunately, it is currently way too difficult for the average Internet user to opt-out of behavioral networks. This is largely because there are so many behavioral networks that opting out of each individual one would be a very labor-intensive, time-consuming process. One possible solution is to create one Web site, perhaps powered by the FTC, dedicated to opting out of online advertising. All the individual networks should then be required to check their opt-out lists against this master list to make sure they're not serving any unwanted ads. Such a solution would make it easier for consumers to control their "personal" data.


It bears mentioning that not all advertisers are so ethical. Some of them will look to use personal data in impermissible ways, and those few place the whole behavioral targeting industry in peril. It's reminiscent of adware. Many software programmers used adware according to the accepted guidelines. They did everything right, but those few bad apples who created spyware and malware really did spoil the whole bunch.


As such, two things must happen if behavioral targeting is to weather this storm of criticism. First, an impartial regulatory body such as the FTC must step in, create acceptable rules or legislation, and punish advertisers who try to circumvent the rules. Second, advertisers must enter the national debate forcefully. It would be all too easy for a politician or reporter to make a name for himself or herself by damning the industry and scaring the public. Indeed, a few buzzwords like "personal data" and "subconscious manipulation" uttered here and there could resonate with the public and reinforce the "mad scientist" stereotype. But if advertisers can counter with some irrefutable evidence, the government and the American public alike will realize that the dark side of interactive marketing isn't so dark.








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Rape charge for Israeli president


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's attorney general has determined that there is enough evidence to charge Israeli President Moshe Katsav with sex crimes, including rape, which stem from allegations from four of his former female employees, the justice ministry said Tuesday.


Katsav will have a chance to refute the charges in a hearing with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before Mazuz can proceed with the indictments.


According to a statement from the ministry, Katsav is charged with raping a woman who worked for him in the tourism ministry in 1998 and 1999, as well as indecent acts with use of force.


He is also charged with unlawful intercourse and indecent acts against another woman who worked with him while he was president in 2003-04. Katsav also faces charges of indecent acts with abuse of power against two women who worked for him as president.


He is also being charged with obstruction of justice and harassing a witness.


Katsav has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyer has said that he is the victim of blackmail.


Three months ago, Mazuz recommended Katsav temporarily step down as president -- a mostly ceremonial position in Israel's government -- as he considered the charges.


Criminal investigation


Katsav has said he would suspend himself from office if indicted. His term ends in July and he is not eligible for a second seven-year term, under Israeli law.


A previous Israeli president and several prime ministers have been suspected of financial misdeeds and a former defense minister was convicted of sexual harassment. But the charges facing Katsav are the most serious criminal counts brought against a serving Israeli official.


Mazuz launched a criminal investigation of Katsav in July after a former employee alleged he forced her to have sex under the threat of dismissal.


Police repeatedly questioned Katsav at his official residence and seized personal documents.


Katsav was appointed president by parliament in 2000 after President Ezer Weizman resigned amid allegations of corruption.


Though the Israeli president's role is mostly ceremonial, Razi Barkai, a political journalist for more than 30 years, told CNN these accusations, true or not, will mean an end to Katsav's political career.


News of a possible presidential sex scandal, which was overshadowed when it broke during Israel's war with Hezbollah, has recently become the focus of national media coverage.










Mummified baby found in storage locker


DELRAY BEACH, Florida (AP) -- A partially mummified baby, believed to have been born sometime in the 1950s, was found wrapped in newspaper in a self-storage unit, authorities said.


The child's body was fully intact, with hair on its head and "little fat cheeks," said police spokesman Officer Jeff Messer, calling the discovery "spooky."


The remains were found Monday in 1950s-era papers inside a suitcase contained inside a second suitcase.


An autopsy completed Tuesday could only determine the child's sex, Messer said. The body will be sent to a forensic anthropologist to determine a cause of death and whether the child was born alive, a process that could take months.


The storage unit had been rented by a couple in 1996, but the man died several years ago and the woman died in the past year, Messer said.


The body was found by the couple's daughter, who had been told the contents of the storage unit would be auctioned off because the rent had not been paid, police said.


The woman wondered, "Could this be a sibling?" Messer said.


"It's obviously a concern of hers," Messer said. "Based on the condition of this baby, it could really be 50 years old."


Authorities were not immediately releasing the names of the couple or the daughter.


According to investigators, the child was wrapped in a newspaper called the Daily Times dated January 9, 1957. They believe the paper was from New Jersey or New York.


Messer would not say whether DNA was extracted from the child to be compared to the daughter. But he noted "there may have been more than one person who had access to that warehouse."


Investigators were releasing few details. They plan to interview friends and family of the couple to determine if the elder woman was ever pregnant with another child and it was kept "on the hush hush," Messer said.







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'Smoking gun' report to say global warming here


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Human-caused global warming is here -- visible in the air, water and melting ice -- and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week.


"The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling."


Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: "This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles."


The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week.


This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes "a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate," said co-chair Susan Solomon a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


She and other scientists held a telephone briefing on the report Monday.


That report will feature an "explosion of new data" on observations of current global warming, Solomon said.


Solomon and others wouldn't go into specifics about what the report says.


They said that the 12-page summary for policymakers will be edited in secret word-by-word by governments officials for several days next week and released to the public on February 2. The rest of that first report from scientists will come out months later.


The full report will be issued in four phases over the year, as was the case with the last IPCC report, issued in 2001.


Global warming is "happening now, it's very obvious," said Mahlman, a former director of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab. "When you look at the temperature of the Earth, it's pretty much a no-brainer."


Look for an "iconic statement" -- a simple but strong and unequivocal summary -- on how global warming is now occurring, said one of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, director of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder.


The February report will have "much stronger evidence now of human actions on the change in climate that's taken place," Rajendra K. Pachauri told the AP in November. Pachauri, an Indian climatologist, is the head of the international climate change panel.


An early version of the ever-changing draft report said "observations of coherent warming in the global atmosphere, in the ocean, and in snow and ice now provide stronger joint evidence of warming."


And the early draft adds: "An increasing body of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on other aspects of climate including sea ice, heat waves and other extremes, circulation, storm tracks and precipitation."


The world's global average temperature has risen about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2005. The two warmest years on record for the world were 2005 and 1998. Last year was the hottest year on record for the United States.


The report will draw on already published peer-review science. Some recent scientific studies show that temperatures are the hottest in thousands of years, especially during the last 30 years; ice sheets in Greenland in the past couple years have shown a dramatic melting; and sea levels are rising and doing so at a faster rate in the past decade.


Also, the second part of the international climate panel's report -- to be released in April -- will for the first time feature a blockbuster chapter on how global warming is already changing health, species, engineering and food production, said NASA scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, author of that chapter.


As confident as scientists are about the global warming effects that they've already documented, they are as gloomy about the future and even hotter weather and higher sea level rises.


Predictions for the future of global warming in the report are based on 19 computer models, about twice as many as in the past, Solomon said.


In 2001, the panel said the world's average temperature would increase somewhere between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea level would rise between 4 inches and 35 inches by the year 2100. The 2007 report will likely have a smaller range of numbers for both predictions, Pachauri and other scientists said.


The future is bleak, scientists said.


"We have barely started down this path," said chapter co-author Richard Alley of Penn State University.







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Will it run? Tulsa to dig up car buried for 50 years


TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) -- Organizers of a coming-out party for a buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere could use some help.


The car, which was buried in brand-new condition under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse in 1957, is scheduled to be unearthed June 15 as part of the Oklahoma Centennial.


Promoters are looking for people who helped lower the car into its crypt in 1957 to perhaps shed some light on what to expect when the car is unearthed.


There's speculation the car may have turned into a pile of rust. Or that it's in pristine condition and worth thousands of dollars.


Sharon King Davis, who has chaired Tulsa's centennial efforts, looked at photos of the people responsible for burying the car in 1957 and found her grandfather.


"I wish grandpa had left me some instructions," she told the Tulsa World.


The car had been largely forgotten until Davis and her group started work on the centennial. Files on the car have vanished, so it's not clear what to expect when the lid is lifted.


What's known is that the car is on a steel pallet with jacks under the axles. Efforts were made to preserve it, but it's unclear if moisture has gotten to the metal and caused rust.


"There's a kind of Rip Van Winkle reaction," Davis says. "Most people had long ago forgotten the buried car, but as the time to dig it up nears, they are waking up and wondering about life in 1957."


Another unknown is who will be able to claim the car.


When the car was buried, a contest was announced to award the car and a $100 savings account to the person who came closest to guessing Tulsa's population in 2007.


Organizers concede that finding that person or his or her heirs may not be easy.


At the time, the guesses were recorded on microfilm and sealed in a steel container buried with the car.








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New passport rules go into effect for air travelers


ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Americans flying to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean made sure to bring their passports Monday because of a new rule going into effect Tuesday that requires them to show one to get back into the country.


Few glitches due to the new rules were reported Tuesday. [Full story]


Only about a quarter of U.S. citizens hold valid passports, and most Americans are accustomed to traveling to neighboring countries with just a driver's license or birth certificate, which have long been sufficient to get through airport customs on the trip home.


The new regulations requiring passports were adopted by Congress in 2004 to secure the borders against terrorists.


Travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and other airports said they had no complaints about the requirement.


"I'd rather be going through a security check, than possibly being blown out of the air because of lack of security measures," John Golden of Columbus, Georgia, who was headed to Cancun, Mexico.


Starting Tuesday, Canadian, Mexican and Bermudan air travelers, as well as U.S. citizens flying home from those countries or the Caribbean, must display their passports to enter the United States.


The only valid substitutes for a passport will be a NEXUS Air card, used by some American and Canadian frequent fliers; identification as a U.S. Coast Guard merchant mariner; and the green card carried by legal permanent residents. Active members of the U.S. military are exempt.


For now, the rules affect only air travelers. Land and sea travelers will not have to show passports until at least January 2008. Air travelers who cannot produce a passport will be interviewed by customs agents, who will decide whether to let them into the country.


The new rules do not apply to U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


"We're not seeing a panic from travelers because we've been pretty diligent in telling them for over a year that they need a passport. It's written on any piece of paper we have going out," said AAA spokeswoman Teresa Hildebrand.


Internet travel sites such as Expedia.com have posted warnings "in bold with exclamation point," said company spokeswoman Erin Krause, adding that agents followed-up with e-mails to customers traveling to the affected destinations.


Canadian consulate officials in the U.S. reported fielding hundreds of calls a day, most from the approximately 100,000 Canadian "snowbirds" who spend the winter in Florida or Arizona and feared they might not be able to fly back without passports, said Lawrence Barker, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association. (They can, Barker said.)


The State Department issued a record 12.1 million passports in 2006 and expects to issue 16 million more this year to meet the increased demand.


Mexican consulates are seeing a demand for passports three times higher than usual in some offices. In San Francisco on Monday, the line of people applying for passports at the Mexican consulate stretched around the block.


Cruz Garcia, a Mexican citizen living in Hayward, had been in line since 5 a.m.


"It seems important for the American government to know who comes and goes," she said. She plans to visit her parents in Mexico this summer and wants to be ready. "I don't want any glitches."








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How Bad Hires Can Hurt Your Business


What's worse - hiring the wrong person or not hiring anyone at all?


Companies can become almost desperate to hire someone, but filling a position with a "warm body" can be worse that leaving the position vacant.


I once worked at a not-for-profit where a management position was vacant. The company was small, resources were limited, and they were having a very difficult time filling the position; they just couldn't find the right person. Finally a gentleman was hired, but he only stayed a few weeks. He had taken the job even though he hadn't really wanted it, and when another position came along, he took it. Ironically enough, he left right about the same time that his business cards arrived. It sounds funny, but it was a devastating situation.


Now, we've all contemplated settling for a position while we kept our eyes open for the one that we really want, but what impact does that have on the company? In this situation, the company spent time and resources on a search to fill the position, training and orientation, business cards and other supplies, salary, and work not completed - only to have to do it all again.


When this happens, it's difficult to go back to your original applicant pool. The finalists have been told that the position was filled, and they have likely taken another position or stayed where they already were. Realistically, I'm not sure that anyone would like to be called back and told that the first choice didn't work out - would they like to give it a try? The search had to be started over causing the company to incur the time and cost of another search, more work went undone, and more stress was placed on the staff.


In another instance, I worked for a company that needed to hire a secretary. I was particularly interested in getting this position filled, because that person was meant to support me as well as the Director. We interviewed and interviewed, but we just couldn't find the right person. No one clicked. No one "fit". Finally, we settled. We hired someone that three of us interviewed late in the day at the end of the week. We were tired, and she did okay in the interview. We thought with a little guidance, she'd work out. Long story short, she did not work out. She was one of those hires that you deeply regret. We tried to help her, guide her, change her duties to better suit her skills, but nothing worked. She wasn't capable of keeping up with the work load. She spent a lot of time on the phone or on email, and she tended to mess up the things that she did do.


She actually took up more staff time than her duties would have if we had just left the position vacant. This situation is easy to relate to. We've all seen those people. We've even wondered how they got hired, well, this is how. We settled on someone we thought would work out with time. We went against our better judgment, and it's a mistake that I would never make again.


The cost of hiring can include recruiting (if necessary), orientation and training, and the time and resources used throughout the hiring process. When the person hired turns out to be the wrong person, you also have to include the time and work that is either not completed or done wrong, the damage to employee morale and customer loyalty, and the cost to replace the bad hire. Some of these costs are quantifiable, and some are not. I assure you that the measurable costs add up, but most of the time, it's the harder to measure costs that take the most toll on the company.


So, how can you keep this from happening to your business? Here are five suggestions:


1. Work on increasing your retention rates. Once you've got good employees keep them! Make sure that your wages and benefits are competitive, but even more, make sure that you provide a good working environment. Find out what your employees really need or want and help them get it.


2. Know what you're looking for. Know what you want in your new employee. Examine an existing job description or create a new job description, if necessary. Have a good idea of the position's duties and responsibilities so that you can find someone with the right skills, knowledge, and experience.


3. Scan resumes or applications thoroughly. Some candidates do exaggerate or lie on their resumes. If you don't already do so, ask candidates to complete an application on which their signature confirms the information is correct. Also get written permission to perform a background check or verify portions of their work history, education, etc.


4. Don't settle when choosing a new employee. Use an interview process that allows you to make informed decisions, and don't allow yourself to be pressured into choosing a "warm body". Your interview questions should be uniform and administered the same way to each candidate. Conduct interviews when you are at your best, not at the end of the day at the end of a long week. Also, be ready to dedicate time to the process.


5. Be honest about the job requirements. If there are undesirable parts of the position that you are trying to fill, be honest about it! Hiring someone who has an unrealistic picture of what their job is going to entail will only end in disaster. Let them know that they'll be traveling 75% of the time, or that their duties include cleaning the bathrooms once a day. A well informed new employee is a happier new employee.


Each of these suggestions could be made into an article of their own, but for the purposes of this article, I wanted to briefly discuss some possibilities. The bottom line is that a poor hire can be an extreme hardship on your business, especially if you are a small business owner and rely that much more on your small workforce. Remember that human resources are just that - a valuable business resource. Your employees can make or break your business, so take the time and steps required to build a great staff!







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Ideal Networking Tips For The Creative Entrepreneur


These tips are ideas that I have used successfully and often recommend to other creative entrepreneurs.


They will help you market your business, grow your network and expand your visibility and leadership skills.


1. Gather endorsements


I've used endorsements with resumes, grant applications, on my Web site, in my marketing materials, in letters of request and with project proposals. Endorsements differ from testimonials, in that endorsements tend to focus on your general character strengths and talents. Testimonials are more specific, relating to work you've done for a customer or client. Endorsements are easier to obtain since the endorser need not have been a customer. Make a list of potential endorsers, concentrating on those who have the strongest credibility. Ask for a few sentences summarizing your character strengths and talents. Have a couple of draft endorsements ready for those who may ask you to send a sample. Be specific about what you want in the endorsement, and always thank your endorsers.


2. Become a "connector" of people


A "connector" is someone who knows everyone. If you need the best handyman, Realtor or lawyer, this is the person who can give you the name. As a "connector," you will become a source of referrals. Your network will be so broad with valuable resources, that everyone will be calling you for help. You must begin by gathering resources to be added to your network. Make some contacts with service providers you know or have heard about. As you start making connections, you'll realize that everyone is looking for something or someone (a job, a hairdresser, a Web site designer). You will provide that referral, making sure that the person you are referring is aware that you've passed their name along. You'll build your visibility and credibility while attracting interesting people and opportunities.


3. Start a club or organization


The most unique segment of my network is a result of founding a non profit organization. The process gave me a reason to meet community leaders, philanthropists and sports professionals at every level and in a variety of sports, expanding my network by hundreds. I'm not advising you to attempt something overwhelming, but surely you can imagine that even starting a small book club or jazz group could expand your network in fantastic ways. You are not only building your network, but you are also helping other people grow theirs. That's a leadership skill. Start with what you love--a hobby or a talent you'd like to nurture. Put an ad in the paper and contact some friends. Book yourself on local talk shows.


4. Create a publicity vehicle for other people


Anytime you have even the smallest publicity vehicle, there will be people who want access. They will hunt you down in the grocery store and call you at odd hours, but there is a wonderful feeling about helping others get visible. You are essentially helping them to open doors they probably would not be able to open otherwise. You'll want to set criteria for who gets access to your publicity vehicle, because these are people you want to add to your network. Consider your preferred options for creating this means of publicity. Maybe you can host a local cable television show or radio talk show, write a spotlight column or send out a newsletter that features a person, pet project or business. You might organize a talent, fashion or art show, put people's links on your Web site or ask them to speak at your club. Give a lecture and reference them as an expert or ask them to be a special guest at a class you teach.


5. Attach yourself to the most visible entity in your area


What is the organization, company or group in your area that is in the media all of the time? It's fine if the entity is controversial so long as it is respected. Is it the Economic Development Board or the Arts Council? Maybe you have an attraction in your area that the whole town centers life around. Is there a board of directors or a "Friends of the Museum...Library or Zoo?" Whatever it is, there should be a way for you to affiliate. Volunteer your talents on a committee; join the group and attend the meetings. If this entity is getting lots of attention, it must have an impressive network. Your affiliation with it will give you access to that network.


6. Create a coalition


A coalition is a group of people who are "cause-driven." Coalitions are assembled to accomplish great things. They run political campaigns, lobby for new laws, fight against "wrongs" and raise funds to build institutions. Coalitions require leadership, and if that's a path that interests you, then you'll need to begin with a forceful mission. A coalition needs a sense of doing something significant for the masses. Are you a speaker who would like to see professional fees standardized? Maybe you are a business consultant that wants a small business incentives program started in your community. After thinking it through, review your network for supporters. You are the root for this coalition, but you still need a few diehard supporters. The more visible these supporters are, the stronger your foundation. They will help you by adding supporters from their networks. Once you've got your core group, meet with them to brainstorm a plan to move the cause forward.


7. Learn a new skill


When you open yourself to learning something new, you allow yourself to grow. You create mental and physical space to accept new intelligence, understanding and self-awareness. You will be pulled through shifts, emotions and into a clarity that is elevating. You'll attract new people to you, because you are circulating in a new area of interest. Become aware of how your network begins to grow and the opportunities that result. Check your local community college or university, library, recreation department and even online sources for ideas.


8. Revisit "planted seeds"


I once sought out a man that was several states away to talk to about a business idea. He was in an industry unfamiliar to me, but perfectly positioned to help me develop the idea. Though the gentleman and I connected well, nothing evolved from the conversation. However, over the years, I sent him newspaper clippings and an occasional note whenever I noticed his career changes. Then, out of the blue, he called to discuss exactly what we had talked about years earlier. The right situation prompted him to make contact, and because I kept in touch, he knew how to reach me. Make it easier for people to connect with you by staying connected to them. Review old notes or business cards, and send these people an update.


9. Be unique in your communication


Rarely do I get a nice envelop with a beautiful hand-written address. Because it is unusual to receive such personal attention, it brings a smile when it does occur. I keep nice note cards on hand, so that my "thanks" or "touching base" notes are a bit a more special. One year, a friend of mine made beautiful Valentine's Day cards to send. I saved mine for years, using it as a bookmark. A gentleman where I live maintained a database of friends and business associates to whom he regularly emailed local special events photos. Everyone loved them. Your extra effort is worth the memory it will create.


10. Barter


Bartering is simply swapping goods for goods or services for services (and any combination of those). I bartered with a carpenter to build an entertainment center in exchange for a freezer. Years ago, I swapped my personal coaching services for weight training from a celebrity fitness trainer in Los Angeles. He actually trained me via email and over the phone. I've known people to barter for their rent (house-sitting or handy-manning), and others who barter their marketing services for massages and computer help. There are bartering Web sites that will match you, but, however it is done, the important thing to remember is that there must be a complete mutual understanding of the end-result and all expectations. Put the agreement in writing. Check your own network for people who have created successful arrangements.




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Secret code word led to rescue of mom, 4 kids


A tip from a pizza man and a secret message in a phone call helped lead to the arrest of a man accused of abducting his ex-girlfriend and their four children after shooting a man.


The clues came during a three-day search for the family that ended with their dramatic but peaceful rescue at the motel where they were staying with the suspect, Jerry D. White.


Someone wired money to White after the abduction and authorities are trying to determine who that was, Detective Sgt. Bill Wargo said at a news conference Wednesday. Police would not say how much money was involved.


Although police had extended their search for the family to Chicago and said they had gotten tips from throughout the Midwest, they said Wednesday they had believed since the night of the abduction Saturday that the victims were still in the area. The motel was just 4 miles from the family's home.


White faces charges of attempted murder and several counts of confinement, and prosecutors will review whether further charges will be added, Wargo said.


Wargo said he knocked on the door of the motel room about 8 p.m. Tuesday and Kimberly Walker opened it.


"She was sobbing hysterically and physically shaking like I've never seen anybody shake," Wargo said. "I asked her if she was Kim. She very hesitantly shook her head yes."


Within minutes, police had rescued Walker and her children and captured White, her former boyfriend and the father of the children, as he tried to escape through a motel air duct, Wargo said.


Authorities said they didn't know how long Walker and her children, who range in age from 16 months to 9 years old, had been at the Sleepy Hollow motel with White, 30, of Chicago.


Police had begun watching the motel after a car White is believed to have used was found nearby.


Walker also made three calls to relatives from a nearby pay phone saying she was safe. However, her family had chosen a code word before the abduction that they used with Walker to make sure she was safe, and when she didn't respond properly, they knew she was still being held against her will. Police would not say Wednesday what that word was or how long it had been used.


Wargo said a pizza delivery driver helped pinpoint the family's location.


Police said White broke into Walker's house early Saturday and shot her sister's boyfriend, Lathie Turnage, in the face and chest. White then held everyone captive until leaving with Walker and the children nearly 10 hours later, police said.


Wargo said an Amber Alert and media coverage may have prevented White from leaving Elkhart, in northern Indiana, with the family.


Wargo said Turnage was still in critical condition Wednesday and was expected to be transferred to a Chicago hospital for surgery. "He's going to have a long recovery ahead of him. But he is expected to survive," the officer said.


After Wargo went to the motel and Walker identified herself, officers pulled her out of the room and rushed her behind a building, he said.


"She was yelling, 'My children! My children!"' Wargo said.


He said that as he yelled for the children, the oldest, 9-year-old Jaylan, poked his head out from the bathroom.


"I asked him to come out to me, and as he came running out they all came out in order like a row of ducks," Wargo said.


Officers caught White as he tried to escape through the air duct, Wargo said. White did not have a weapon on him, but police found a handgun in the motel room.


Walker's sister, Pamela Walker, said her sister's children didn't see the shooting, but her own 3- and 11-year-old children did.


"They're going to need a lot of counseling I'm sure," she said. "The 3-year-old was at my side when he did the shooting. He yelled 'You shot my Daddy! Why did you shoot my Daddy?"'









Shea ban for Mets fan

Teen-ager posed as reporter to meet Piazza, players


NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York Mets fan accused of posing as a reporter to meet players won't go to jail, but he won't be going to the team's ballpark for a while, either.


Ryan Leli, 18, took a plea deal that spares him a potential seven-year prison sentence, but bars him for three years from Shea Stadium. The ban also applies to KeySpan Park -- the home of the Mets' minor-league affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones -- and to the Mets' spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla.


Regardless, Leli said he remained an enthusiastic follower of the team, and of former Mets catcher Mike Piazza in particular.


"Hes always been my hero, and I just wanted to meet him," Leli, of Head of the Harbor, said after pleading guilty Tuesday to criminal impersonation.


Prosecutors said Leli told Mets management that he worked for NBC Universal and showed a fake NBC employee identification card so he could get press credentials.


Leli first used the press pass to attend an Aug. 10 Mets-San Diego Padres game and approach and talk to Piazza and other players, prosecutors said. Piazza, once a Mets player, was with the Padres at the time. Prosecutors said Leli used the fake NBC identification to get another press pass for a Mets-Colorado Rockies game about a week later, but Mets management apparently became suspicious and contacted authorities.


Lelis lawyer, Joseph Mure, noted that Leli had bought tickets for both games. The teenager's mother, Denise Leli, said her son was simply smitten with the team, having gone to a baseball camp since age 5.


"He had no idea he was doing anything that wrong," she said.


But Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Leli's case should send a stern message to any would-be imitators.


"We take this seriously, and if anybody else tries it, they'll get the same result," Horwitz said.


As for Leli, he said, "I guess I'm going to have to go to Yankee games."











Rare shark captured on film


TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- A species of shark rarely seen alive because its natural habitat is about 2,000 feet under the sea was captured on film by staff at a Japanese marine park this week.


The Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka, south of Tokyo, was alerted by a fisherman at a nearby port on Sunday that he had spotted an odd-looking eel-like creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth.


Marine park staff caught the 5 foot (1.6 meter) long creature, which they identified as a female frilled shark, sometimes referred to as a "living fossil" because it is a primitive species that has changed little since prehistoric times.


The shark appeared to be in poor condition when park staff moved it to a seawater pool where they filmed it swimming and opening its jaws.


"We believe moving pictures of a live specimen are extremely rare," said an official at the park. "They live between 1,968 and 3,280 feet (600 and 1,000 meters) under the water, which is deeper than humans can go."


"We think it may have come close to the surface because it was sick, or else it was weakened because it was in shallow waters," the official said.


The shark died a few hours after being caught.


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Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits


Microsoft Corp. has landed in the Wikipedia doghouse after it offered to pay a blogger to change technical articles on the community-produced Web encyclopedia site.


While Wikipedia is known as the encyclopedia that anyone can tweak, founder Jimmy Wales and his cadre of volunteer editors, writers and moderators have blocked public-relations firms, campaign workers and anyone else perceived as having a conflict of interest from posting fluff or slanting entries. So paying for Wikipedia copy is considered a definite no-no.


"We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach," Wales said Tuesday.


Microsoft acknowledged it had approached the writer and offered to pay him for the time it would take to correct what the company was sure were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open-source document standard and a rival format put forward by Microsoft.


Spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM Corp., which is a big supporter of the open-source standard. IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia's volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert who could determine whether changes were necessary and enter them on Wikipedia.


Brooker said Microsoft believed that having an independent source would be key in getting the changes to stick -- that is, to not have them just overruled by other Wikipedia writers.


Brooker said Microsoft and the writer, Rick Jelliffe, had not determined a price and no money had changed hands -- but they had agreed that the company would not be allowed to review his writing before submission. Brooker said Microsoft had never previously hired someone to influence a Wikipedia article.


Jelliffe, who is chief technical officer of a computing company based in Australia, did not return an e-mail seeking comment.


In a blog posting Monday, he described himself as a technical standards aficionado and not a Microsoft partisan. He said he was surprised to be approached by Microsoft but figured he'd accept the offer to review the Wikipedia articles because he considered it important to make sure technical standards processes were accurately described.


Wales said the proper course would have been for Microsoft to write or commission a "white paper" on the subject with its interpretation of the facts, post it to an outside Web site and then link to it in the Wikipedia articles' discussion forums.


"It seems like a much better, transparent, straightforward way," Wales said.








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Katsav: I'll fight to bitter end


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Lashing out at the Israeli media for "letting my blood" and "brainwashing" the Israeli public, Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Wednesday vehemently denied impending sex crimes charges and refused to resign from his position.


"I shall fight to the very bitter end even if it means fighting everybody to prove my innocence," Katsav said at a news conference.


He restated his pledge to "immediately" resign if he is formally indicted.


In the meantime, Katsav has asked the Israeli parliament's speaker to temporarily remove him from power, according to a Knesset spokeswoman. However, many Knesset ministers may reject the request in an effort to push for Katsav's permanent resignation.


The presidency is a mostly ceremonial position in Israel's government.


The embattled president also restated his belief that he is the target of slander, and blamed the Israeli media for "brainwashing" Israelis with lies.


During the news conference, Katsav got into a verbal altercation with a reporter from Israel's Channel 2. He blamed the network for "letting my blood" for the pasts six months.


"I was the prey and you were the hunters," he said to the entire media gallery covering the news conference.


"Why do you try to hunt me down?" he later asked.


He also rejected the charges, saying the indictment goes against his "moral fiber."


Katsav has been under increased pressure to step down after Israel's attorney general announced Tuesday that he had enough evidence to indict the president on the charges, which stem from allegations from four of Katsav's former female employees.


Katsav cannot be tried while he is Israel's president. His term ends in July and he is not eligible to serve a second seven-year term, under Israeli law.


Katsav had said in the past that he would suspend himself from office if indicted.


He will have a chance to refute the charges in a hearing with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before Mazuz can proceed with the indictments.


According to a statement from the justice ministry, the charges include raping a woman who worked for him in the tourism ministry in 1998 and 1999, as well as indecent acts with use of force.


The charges also include unlawful intercourse and indecent acts against another woman who worked with him while he was president in 2003-04, the ministry said. He also faces charges of indecent acts with abuse of power against two women who worked for him as president.


The preliminary indictment also includes charges of obstruction of justice and harassing a witness.


Three months ago, Mazuz recommended Katsav temporarily step down as president as he considered the charges.


Katsav was appointed president by parliament in 2000 after President Ezer Weizman resigned amid allegations of corruption.


In addition to Weizman, several Israeli prime ministers have been suspected of financial misdeeds and a former defense minister was convicted of sexual harassment. But the charges facing Katsav are the most serious criminal counts brought against a serving Israeli official.


Mazuz launched a criminal investigation of Katsav in July after a former employee alleged he forced her to have sex under the threat of dismissal.


Police repeatedly questioned Katsav at his official residence and seized personal documents.


Though the Israeli president's role is mostly ceremonial, Razi Barkai, a political journalist for more than 30 years, told CNN these accusations, true or not, will mean an end to Katsav's political career.







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Escalation or surge: Those are fighting words


(CNN) -- Politicians know it's unwise to bring a knife to a gunfight, which is why they're choosing weapons carefully in the war of words over President Bush's new Iraq plan.


Bush's proposal to quell insurgent attacks and sectarian violence in Iraq by adding 21,500 U.S. troops to the war is so controversial that members of Congress can't agree on what to call it.


The Republican arsenal of words includes "surge" and "augmentation," while Democrats pull their triggers with terms such as "escalation." Meanwhile, the war planners at the Pentagon use a word of their own: "plus-up."


"The Democrats believe that the word surge was chosen by Republicans to imply the troop increase is temporary," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.


"Democrats prefer to call it an escalation, which implies a longer-term increase in troops. They believe that somebody somewhere was trying to hide the increase in troops as a long-term event by calling it a surge."


Bush has not said how long the additional troops would remain in Iraq, but he has said the U.S. commitment there isn't open-ended and the war's top general has said the increase could end as soon as this summer.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on January 11 that the increase is "viewed as a temporary surge. But I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be."


'CSI' on the case


If Capitol Hill were a crime scene, Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, would be the equivalent of a crime scene investigator, examining the clues to determine how words do their damage.


"Words can shape the perception of reality for a while, but ultimately reality always wins," Nunberg said.


He explained why an opponent of Bush's plan might choose to call it an escalation. "Only bad things escalate," said the professor. "You talk about escalating crime rates and escalating house prices, but you don't talk about escalating rates of home ownership or escalating rates of minority college graduation."


Escalation, which carries ominous overtones from the Vietnam War, is the word of choice of Sen. Edward Kennedy, a leading opponent of the troop increase.


The Massachusetts Democrat used the word in a statement Tuesday after Bush's State of the Union address. "Iraq is the overarching issue of our time, yet tonight we heard very little from the president about it when in fact the burden of responsibility is on him to explain the mission behind his escalation of troops in Iraq," Kennedy said.


Is it a surge or augmentation?


Using surge to describe the Bush plan already has become so controversial, Schneider said, that many Republicans are holstering it for now, preferring to use an alternative -- augmentation.


According to Nunberg, "augmenting means to add resources to an existing effort, usually with a positive implication. It's usually used if there's some job that you're trying to get done and you're adding resources to get that job done."


Republicans Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine, who have broken with Bush on the issue, chose augmentation in a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase.


"[T]his proposed level of troop augmentation far exceeds the expectations of many of us as to the reinforcements that would be necessary to implement the various options for a new strategy, and led many members to express outright opposition to augmenting our troops by 21,500."


Washington's true weapon in the war of words, Nunberg said, is whatever message the different sides of a debate are trying to communicate.


"The battle for public opinion is always transacted by symbols of one sort or another, and these words are symbolic ways of framing the administration's policy," Nunberg said.


"The words aren't trivial. I'm always suspicious when people talk about 'mere semantics' because semantics have a lot to do with how people perceive these things."

What's a 'plus-up'?


Across the Potomac, Pentagon officials often forge their own words when the dictionary fails them.


"They use words with a very specific meaning for things," said CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre. "In this case, they used plus-up because the military considers this to be a small additional number of troops --- what they call a plus-up."


Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, compared surge with plus-up during his testimony Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee.


"By a strict military definition of surge, a commander makes a conscious effort to mass his troops at a specific point and place and time in order to achieve a desired result," Conway said.


"But on the backside of that effort of a surge, there must be what we call a payback, and that is that you'll have less forces to employ at a later period in time because you've used them in some form or fashion. What I think I would term what we see happening right now is more a plus-up of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, not a surge."


According to Nunberg, plus-up began appearing as a verb in Washington-speak during the early 1990s: "Could you plus-up my program with additional federal funding, please?" Eventually the word morphed into an adjective before taking on noun status.


Do any of these verbal salvos mean anything outside the Beltway? Do voters care about the words? Do they matter?


"Nobody has done any polling on this issue," Schneider said. "I don't think voters are being deceived by the use of the words augmentation, surge, escalation -- they don't care what you call it -- all they know is that more troops are going to be in harm's way."




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Bush Goes Green?


Say what you will about President George W. Bush. But he is a savvy enough politician to recognize that with a political stinker of a war at his back and a chops-licking Democratic majority in front of him, he had to offer up something in tonight's State of the Union address to buy a little good will. And that is exactly what he did with his decidedly out-of-character calls for better fuel economy, stepped-up production of alternative energy and a whole pupu platter of green-sounding goodies. It was enough to make you wonder if the war President steeped in Texas oil has suddenly become a bit of an eco President. Don't count on it. But don't count it out either.



The full text of President Bush's State of the Union address


Bush Turns to the Clinton Playbook


In tonight's State of the Union, the President will try to lighten the public's sour mood by taking a tip from the last administration that seemed beyond salvation


The President signaled that this speech would mark a new environmental direction for him both with something he said and something he didn't say. The thing he didn't say was ANWR — or Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That's the place the Administration and the energy industry have wanted to get their drills into for years in order to boost domestic energy production. It's also the place environmentalists have been fighting just as fiercely to keep off limits. The symbolic significance of the battle always far exceeded the relatively small amount of oil locked up there, and the President's omission of any mention of ANWR tonight was his first admission that this has become a losing hand for him.


What Bush did say tonight—loudly, clearly and in a more auspicious venue than he ever had before—were the words "climate change," acknowledging that the battle to reverse it must lie at the center of everything the U.S. does about energy from now on.


So what then exactly does he intend to do? For one thing, the President said, he wants to see us diversify our energy choices, greatly expanding the use of clean coal, solar, wind and nuclear power and biofuels. He also wants to see stepped-up research into improved batteries for hybrid cars.


All this sounds fine, but it's also a little like campaigning for delicious, low-fat cake. Who's going to disagree? Greens love anything clean and renewable and have even, for the most part, come around to the virtues of nuclear power, providing strict safety standards can be maintained and someone can figure out what to do with the waste. The energy industry loves nukes and clean coal, and if they have to make a little room at the table for windmills and solar panels, well, that can't hurt too much. Plus, Bush also called for doubling the size of the nation's strategic energy reserve, boosting oil demand by putting the government in line for a massive fill-up on the federal credit card.


What the President didn't do after all this ambitious call to arms was put forward any serious ideas — or even any unserious ones — about how to make it happen. Remember all that talk about hydrogen cars? Get yours yet? No, and you're not likely to for a very long time either.


More surprising, not to mention more encouraging, was Bush's announced goal of reducing gasoline use by 20% in 10 years — the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we import today from the Middle East — and supplementing this savings by flowing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the national energy pool by 2017.


That's five times the current renewable fuel goal.


All of this would be a bold call for any President, all the more so for one who came so late to the conservation game. But again, the substance is lacking, at least so far. It's one thing to call for a 20% savings in fuel; it's quite another thing to demand the hard, politically costly choices to make that happen, such as a pump tax with real bite or a significant increase in mandatory mileage standards. Bush did call generally for fuel economy improvements, but if he really wants them he doesn't have to request them; he can, for practical purposes, regulate the new rules into being. If he doesn't, it's because he doesn't want to, at least not yet.


Still, in the green arena, Bush has always been a President you have to grade on a generous curve, and in that respect, tonight's speech earns him a solid B. Perhaps his apparent green conversion is just a calculated ploy to win some much-needed good press. But it's also true that the last two years of a badly cratering Presidency can be a time of unexpected clarity; the less you have to lose, the less you have to fear. And the first step in tackling anything as scary as global warming is admitting you have a problem in the first place.









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